AIDS deniers use bogus copyright claims to censor critical Youtube videos

Myles Power, a debunker who goes after junk science and conspiracy theorists, has gone after AIDS denialists and a terrible, falsehood-ridden, dangerous documentary called "House of Numbers," which holds that HIV/AIDS isn't an actual viral illness, but rather a conspiracy to sell anti-viral medication. The AIDS denial movement encourages people who are HIV-positive to go off the medication that keeps them alive.

The producers of "House of Numbers" have used a series of bogus copyright takedown notices to get Youtube to remove Powers's videos, in which he uses clips from the documentary as part of his criticism, showing how they mislead viewers and misrepresent the facts and the evidence. It's pure censorship: using the law to force the removal of your opponents' views.

Google and Youtube have some blame to shoulder here. They should not be honoring these takedown notices, as they are not valid on their face. However, the buck doesn't stop there. The DMCA's takedown procedures have no real penalty for abuse, so it is the perfect tool for would-be censors. What's more, the entertainment companies -- who are great fans of free speech when defending their right to sell products without censorship, but are quite unwilling the share the First Amendment they love so dearly with the rest of us -- are pushing to make censorship even easier, arguing that nothing should be posted on Youtube (or, presumably, any other online forum) unless it has been vetted by a copyright lawyer.

Update: Google has reinstated the video, and published this statement: "When a copyright holder notifies us of a video that infringes their copyright, we remove it promptly in accordance with the law. We reinstate content in cases where there is clear fair use and we are confident that the material is not infringing, removing any associated copyright strikes.”

However, the "accordance with the law" business isn't the whole story. The law says that if Google is sent a takedown notice and they don't remove it, they could be sued along with the person who posted it. But it's up to Google to determine whether it believes the complaint holds water, and whether to assume the risk of disregarding it. IOW: Google could have left the video up, but at some risk of being named in a nuisance suit by some genuinely evil people. It decided that this risk was more costly than the likely temporary removal of the video.

They're probably right inasmuch as they will generally be let off the hook for this. However, to the extent that we -- the people who generate Google's income -- give them a good kicking when they make decisions like this, we will raise the cost of acting on obviously spurious copyright complaints. The higher that cost rises, the less censorship we'll see on Youtube.

The first DMCA filed against me was from Liam Scheff who starred in part 5 of my video series. Liam believes that my videos are not protected under fair use because they are not made for educational purposes, but instead for propaganda. Over the last week, Liam has been constantly posting on my Facebook and has called me a retard, a cunt, a little bitch and, of course, a paid shill. Yet at the same time believes that I have been slandering him. What is also bizarre is that even though Liam has made it clear of his intentions to drag me through the courts, at the same time he does not think I am a real person but part of Myles Power inc. Liam later went on to remove his DMCA, but by filing it in the first place he has left himself open to legal action.

As soon as part 5 was restored, it was taken immediately down by Martin Penny and the people at Knowledge Matters, who then decided to file 2 more DMCA takedowns against part 1 and 2. I want to take this time to remind people that there are multiple copies of House of Numbers uploaded to YouTube. If Martin Penny and the people at Knowledge Matters truly thought I was infringing copyright, then why are they not going after people who uploaded the entire movie? It is very clear that these people are trying to silence my criticism. For those who don’t know, Martin Penny is the Executive Producer of House of Numbers and a multimillionaire from Leeds who used to be the CEO of GHD. What’s interesting is that Martin is now a chairman at OHS Ltd – one of the leading health, safety and environmental consultancies who have worked for the NHS.

AIDS Denial Crazies Go All DMCA On Videos Educating People Of Their Craziness [Timothy Geigner/Techdirt]

The DMCA Situation [Myles Power]

Notable Replies

  1. Why do they do this? Is it a special form of trolling? Are they selling an alternative?

  2. This is more reason to repeal the DMCA. Shit like this gives people too much power to quash criticism and not expect to pay for perjury.

  3. Probably at least a few doing it because they want people with AIDS to die. In some quarters it is still seen as God's punishment to gays.

  4. This isn't the first time the DMCA has been abused.

    Gordon Klingenschmitt, the former US Navy chaplain who was court-martialed and drummed out of the Navy, has been doing a radio and TV show, in which he regularly spews bigoted, homophobic vitriol.

    Naturally, this attracted the attention of Right Wing Watch, which has been regularly putting up clips of him at his nuttiest.

    For a time, Klingenschmitt had Right Wing Watch's Youtube account suspended, by making bogus DMCA claims, but RWW had enough money and supporters to get some lawyers to file counterclaims and get reinstated.

    More on the story is here.

  5. To highlight the problems with the DMCA, turn it around and organize a worldwide day of protest, submitting DMCA takedown notices to content put up by DMCA-backers and other censorship trolls. If there really aren't any consequences for abuse, this might be an excellent form of civil disobedience. If it's effective, consequences for abuse will appear in response, giving an avenue for responding against the trolls and companies that use bots to abuse the system.

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