The Electronic Frontier Foundation's Alison Dame-Boyle has a good post on Victoria's Secret bad-tempered attempt to censor a campaign by the feminist group FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture, which parodied the "Sure Thing" and "Unwrap Me" underwear that Victoria's Secret sells to high-school students with its PINK line, replacing the slogans with phrases like "Ask First" and "Respect."
Victoria's Secret used takedown notices to get FORCE's web-host to shut down its site, to get Twitter to yank the FORCE's @LoveConsent account, shutting down the dialogue about consent and rape just as it was gaining momentum. It's a sobering reminder of the power of copyright takedown rules to be used to censor political speech, and of the fragility of free speech in an era where the entertainment industry has lobbied successfully for laws that allow censorship without a court order.
Though nothing was down for long—the site was only down briefly as FORCE moved to a different hosting provider and the Twitter account was back up by Friday, December 7—even the brief downtime hurt the campaign. FORCE had purposefully launched PINK Loves CONSENT immediately prior to the fashion show to capitalize on the publicity surrounding the event, which attracted nearly 10 million viewers. During the show, tweets about body acceptance and the importance of normalizing a culture of enthusiastic consent made #loveconsent the number one hashtag associated with #victoriassecret. The Facebook page was similarly inundated. FORCE was able to use Victoria’s Secret’s popularity to raise awareness and generate discussion about rape culture on an unprecedented level. When its Twitter account and subsequently its websites were taken down, that discussion was interrupted at a vital time.
These takedowns highlight, once again, the weakest link problem that plagues Internet speech. Individuals and organizations rely on service providers to help them communicate with the world (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.). A copyright complaint to an intermediary generally triggers a virtually automatic takedown, because the intermediary has a strong interest in complying with the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) and preserving its safe harbor from copyright liability. A trademark complaint directed to one of those providers can also mean a fast and easy takedown given that those service providers usually don’t have the resources and/or the inclination to investigate trademark infringement claims. Moreover, because there is no counter-notice procedure, the targets of an improper trademark takedown have no easy way to get their content back up.
Google's semi-annual Transparency Report features detailed analysis and statistics for government takedown requests, broken down by nation. From this, I learned that Brazil's government sends more Google takedowns than anywhere else, thanks to the combination of a national election and the popularity of Orkut, Google's social networking service.
India's government generates the largest number of bogus takedowns. 88 percent of Indian government takedown requests to Google are denied: "We received requests from different law enforcement agencies to remove a blog and YouTube videos that were critical of Chief Ministers and senior officials of different states. We did not comply with these requests."
Meanwhile, the UK leads the world in the volume of materials taken down: 93,518 removals in 2010, "The UK's Office of Fair Trading requested the removal of fraudulent ads that linked to scams. We complied with the request and removed 93,360 items in total."
When popular YouTuber ASL Ally -- who posts videos that interpret song lyrics in American Sign Language for deaf and hard-of-hearing people -- had her YouTube channel yanked after complaints by Warner and Universal, the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Cindy Cohn came to the rescue. Cohn called up YouTube, and YouTube contacted the rightsholders, and everyone agreed that there was nothing wrong with Ally's wonderful work. However:
"The problem is that the various music groups hire zombies and trained monkeys who scour the Internet searching for any use of their licensed material regardless of the context or purpose," Cohn said by phone on Monday.YouTube Reinstates Ally ASL's Account
"Often, this leads to flagged entries and complaints on sites like YouTube that really should have been approached with greater discretion."
- EFF: YouTube shouldn't block works by video artist Amy Greenfield ...
- Taken down from YouTube? EFF wants to help - Boing Boing
- YouTube: Viacom secretly posted its videos even as they sued us ...
- Boing Boing: EFF sues Viacom over YouTube takedown of Colbert parody
- EFF sues Uri Geller over YouTube takedown abuse - Boing Boing
- YouTube will not block Amy Greenfield's video art - Boing Boing
- EFF chairman makes a Downfall remix - Boing Boing
- Google highlights fair use defense to YouTube takedowns - Boing Boing
The Games Workshop Files Purge of '09
No doubt those of you who have supported Games Workshop in the past by creating files for use with their games will have noticed they are all being deleted from BGG at the behest of their lawyers.
So here's a little paeon to the games that I spent many hours creating rules summaries and reference sheets for that are no longer available here. They're still at my personal site, but I don't imagine they'll be there for long.
No doubt they'll be more items on this list before long.