Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet; Guardian, 5/23/16

Alex Hern, Guardian; Revealed: How copyright law is being misused to remove material from the internet:
"Censorship by copyright
The motivation of Ashraf can only be guessed at, but censorship using the DMCA is common online. The act allows web hosts a certain amount of immunity from claims of copyright infringement through what is known as the “safe harbour” rules: in essence, a host isn’t responsible for hosting infringing material provided they didn’t know about it when it went up, and took it down as soon as they were told about it.
In practice, however, this means that web hosts (and the term is broadly interpreted, meaning sites like YouTube, Twitter and Google count) are forced to develop a hair-trigger over claims of copyright infringement, assuming guilt and asking the accused to prove their innocence.
As such, a very easy way to remove something from the internet is to accuse its creator of infringing copyright. Worse, the potential downside of such a false claim is minimal: the accused would have to first file a counterclaim, proving they own the copyright; then file a private lawsuit, and prove material damage; and then track down the offending party to actually recover any monies granted by the court.
That doesn’t happen all that often.
But in recent years, big web companies have started funding lawsuits themselves, to fill the gap in the law and tilt the scales a bit further in favour of content creators wrongly accused."

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