Chilling Effects Roars Back to Life

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In recent months, Chilling Effects, the database of takedown notices and other cease and desist letters, had been very quiet. During the early months of the year, only a few items had been posted and, in fact, nothing had been posted at all in 2009 until February.

However, since the beginning of April, there have been nearly 200 postings to the service, almost all of them related to Google’s Blogger service. I spoke with Wendy Setzler, the project leader at Chilling Effects, and she said it was due to the “improved processing” of notices, especially on Google’s part (Note: The improvement has been mostly on Chilling Effects Part).

It is worth noting that the improvements in processing began shortly after Google began accepting DMCA notices via a form for Blogger, meaning that it is likely that, as part of processing the notices via the form, it is submitting them to Chilling Effects in a way that can be more easily processed and uploaded to the site. This is further supported y the fact that, of the notices I checked, all appeared to have come from Blogger’s DMCA form.

Currently most notices seem to be going up on Chilling Effects the same day that they are submitted, indicating a near record-breaking turnaround for these notices ad it has the potential to mean a very important new beginning for Chilling Effects as a service of record.

What This Means

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What this means is pretty simple, if you plan on filing a DMCA notice with Blogger using the form, it will appear on Chilling Effects, most likely the same day. If this troubles you, you may be able to file a notice via fax or email and still get the works removed without it being processed, at least not immediately.

However, it has always been Google’s stated policy to submit DMCA notices to Chilling Effects and any notice filed with them may well be submitted. That being said, historically the majority of notices have not been or have at least not appeared on the site. In fact, even currently, no notices from Google Search, likely the most common recipient of DMCA notices, Adsense or other Google properties have been featured since the beginning of the year.

In fact, the only other Web property to feature significantly since April has been Digg.com, which has submitted several notices to the site that have been put into the database.

Whether this because Google is not providing the notices or if the Chilling Effects team, which is largely volunteer and is connected with several universities, is simply overworked. Setzler indicated that the number of notices they have been receiving has been increasing at a very rapid pace and that has placed a burden on the project.

Either way, it is clear that the site is now very active again and I certainly find that to be very encouraging, especially considering how little transparency there has been in the DMCA process.

Some Personal Thoughts

I’ve written before about the need for improved transparency in the DMCA process. As a believer that the DMCA process is, overall, a good idea that serves both copyright holders and the internet at large, I despise those who abuse it as they weaken the system and make it more difficult for those that wish to use it for its proper and intended purpose.

Chilling Effects has always been the best and most prominent effort to add that layer of transparency but it has struggled to be effective. The process of receiving notices, filtering out personal information, tagging them and posting them to the database has proved to be very time-consuming and they have struggled with the ever-increasing number of notices.

Hopefully this will be the beginnings of them getting a handle on this process and finding ways to automate it enough to make the database truly practical.

For those filing DMCA notices, especially over personal matters, the prospect of having their notices submitted to a public database may seem unnerving. However, I encourage people to never file a notice that they will not stand behind publicly. If you are only willing to file a takedown should it be kept private, it is one to re-evaluate.

The bottom line is that I applaud the work Chiling Effects is doing. Whether you are a critic of the takedown process or a supporter, it is easy to see that what they are doing is important.

In order to understand how best to legislate the takedown system, one must first understand how it is being used and that is exactly what Chilling Effects hopes to provide.

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