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June 13, 2005
Even Copyright Infringing Spammers Deserve Free Speech Protections
Denise Howell endorses (Putting The DMCA To Good Use) Kevin Marks's idea to use the notice-and-takedown provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to attack "spamblogs" (Using the DMCA for Good).
There are spammers who copy entire blog posts from others to act as fresh bait for their search spoofing tricks. This is commercial use, and a violation of most CC licenses (and indeed default copyright).Stephanie Booth recently did this [issued a DMCA notice and takedown] to a spammer at www.famous-people.info who plagiarized one of her posts on Jennifer Garner, on what was a Google Adsense supported spamblog. When she sent a DMCA notice, they took down the page and apparently lost their Adsense status. [links in original]
Although I sympathize with the desire to inhibit spamming and enforce copyright, I must demur. I cannot endorse use of the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions, unless there are no other reasonable legal alternatives.
The problem with the provisions is that they lack important procedural safeguards for free speech. Copyright holders can easily, with virtually no justification and no judicial oversite, cause a website to remove speech that is perfectly legal for days, if not weeks. There is no requirement that the copyright holder actually file a lawsuit, if there is a counter notification. There is no recourse for damages for false takedown notices as long as they were issued in "good faith." This makes the DMCA ripe for abuse (EFF: Unsafe Harbors: Abusive DMCA Subpoenas and Takedown Demands) and, among other reasons, an unjust law.
We should not use unjust laws, giving them legitimacy, unless there are no reasonable alternatives. In this case, there are a number of alternatives, such as sending a polite request, sending a threatening legal letter, contacting the ISP directly, or even suing for copyright infringement (statutory damages are your friend).
We should not be so quick to use law to terminate speech merely on our say so. You say spam, I say free speech (until a court rules otherwise).
Please see the comments for a continued debate.
+ TrackBacks (0) | Category: Digital Millennium Copyright Act | Freedom of Expression
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