A copyright troll took down one of our favorite Tumblrs. Here's why it could happen to you.

Regular Boing Boing readers have seen me credit This Isn't Happiness many times for wonderful visual and audio finds. We've been linking to Peter Nidzgorski's work since way back in 2008. Recently, his wonderful tumblog—a mix of art, music, film, urban ennui, and sexy design ephemera—went dark. No! Why? Automated DMCA takedowns, spurred by the complaint of a well-known copyright troll.

In Pete's case, the copyright claimants are known tumblr trolls based in the UK who were claiming rights of music related photos erroneously. Tumblr appears to be now using an automated "take-down first" policy and not a process in which each claim is personally reviewed by staff, as Tumblr has claimed.

This stuff happens all the time with our blogging and remixing artist friends, but I like to share these stories because they're totally outrageous and wrong, and– they now happen all the time. Pete's tumblr is back up, but the down time added up to two weeks or more. I'd lose my shit if that happened to Boing Boing.

We forget that when we create these repositories of ideas, videos, images, and links, if we don't own and operate the publishing platform ourselves we are proceeding with the risk that Tumblr or YouTube or Facebook or whoever will turn the lights off whenever they, or someone who files a DMCA claim, wants to. Doesn't matter if the copyright claim is justified or not. DMCA claims generate automated takedowns. If your work involves curation, remix, anything that might involve issues of fair use, this will happen to you. It's gonna cost you time or money or stress or all of the above.

This is why bad copyright laws are bad. Copyright reform sounds bland and tedious until someone takes down the website you've been running for more than a decade, like they did with Pete.

Pete explains below what happened, in his own words.

I checked my spam folder one day, and found something really scary.

Two threatening-looking emails with the subject line:

Tumblr Copyright Violation: FINAL WARNING

Tumblr had received DMCA complaints from copyright holders concerning content on my site.

I've heard of this happening concerning music tumblrs but I almost never post audio. This was different.
These violations were images. And music related. And British. Were the record companies
now going after images they owned?

I was connecting dots that weren't there.

Tumblr offers a way to refute the claims, a DMCA counter-notification. It seems complicated
containing lots of legalese, and there's something about a ten day wait.

And then the third strike came on Feb. 5th. A photo of David Bowie? And my Tumblr account was terminated.
The violation notices Tumblr send via email have the info about the offending post but it's deleted so
I couldn't tell exactly what is was. Wasn't this image from deep in my archive [56k pages, 110k images]
long before the three strike policy was implemented?

When Bowie died I deliberately avoided posting any rock photographers' images of him.

Three days later I received an email from Tumblr's Counsel and Director of Trust & Safety [Nicole Blumenfeld] – the support team had escalated the case to her. It was all some horrible mix up, right? Counsel said there was nothing that could be done accept go through the process, fight the claims, wait ten days.

She said she would send me more details on the images in question and their claimants.

Apparently the two claimants do not own the copyrights and one of them is a known troll of an unknown origin, forcing tumblr to take down Smiths-related images. Both are based in the UK.

I sent the DMCA counter-notifications in and I wait.

It's been the longest ten days ever.


Screengrabs below. Source: thisisnthappiness.com