Sunday, May 1, 2011

More Problems with the DMCA - Fake DMCA Complaints!

Whew! Sorry about the long lag in posting to my blog - its' been a jam-packed semester in the law school...much of which I'll be back to blogging about in the next few weeks. But now for a current issue that caught my eye, and perhaps yours as well:

The troubled, and troublesome, Digital Millennium Copyright Act (aka the DMCA) is revealed as having yet another problem in a recent series of stories about Facebook. It seems that some nefariously minded third parties have been sending fake complaints and demands under the DMCA's "notice and takedown" policy, which resulted in Facebook taking down popular and well-trafficked sites.

Some of the sites involved include Redmond Pie, Ars Technica, and Neowin (a well-known Microsoft blog). After Facebook took these sites down, their owners received a generic explanation that the site had been taken down for alleged copyright infringement, without any identification of what content was alleged to be infringing. After much hassle and email interchanges, the pages have been restored. A Facebook spokesperson sent an apology, noting that the four pages have been restored. The apology noted that no system is perfect and that they are looking into refining their system.

The much-discussed Google v. Viacom case, which I blogged about last year, exposed serious flaws in the notice and takedown system in the context of mass, repeat uploads of user-generated, but not owned, content. This new problem presents yet another problem - it is too easy to make a false complaint, and thereby tie up and at least for a short time, take down, a valid site.

Many commentators have opined that the DMCA is in serious need of revision. Perhaps we can hope that once Congress finishes with its current patent law reform efforts, it can turn its attention to this ever-growing problem. With Spring comes hope, so stay tuned.