Samsung abuses copyright to censor satirical exploding phone Grand Theft Auto mod

Samsung's got problems: its Galaxy Note devices are bursting into flames, and have been banned from the skies.

This headline-seizing bad news has prompted plenty of humor, including some gallows satire in the form of a Grand Theft Auto 5 mod that allows you to throw bombs that look like Galaxy Note phones, which explode spectacularly.

As you'd expect, players are delighted with this, and have posted many videos of the mod in action to Youtube, whose Content ID system is notoriously friendly to copyfraud, where someone makes largely consequence-free copyright claims in order to remove something that they would prefer the rest of the world didn't get to see.

But as the Electronic Frontier Foundation's Daniel Nazer points out, copyfraud is getting some consequences, thanks to EFF's landmark 2015 victory in the Lenz/Dancing Baby case, which established that companies that knowingly send out fake copyright notices can be made to pay their victims' legal fees, meaning that those who've been censored can take their pick of slavering, no-win/no-fee contingency lawyers who are only too glad to go up against deep-pocketed bullies.

Lenz is up for consideration at the Supreme Court right now, and we'll find out any day whether they'll hear it — if they do, we'll get a chance to strengthen the principle even further, so that companies that should know that their copyright claims are bogus are also liable.

If it doesn't have a viable copyright claim, why did Samsung send DMCA takedown notices? We asked Samsung's counsel (the notices were sent on Samsung's behalf by the 900-lawyer firm Paul Hastings LLP) but received no response. It appears that Samsung took the easy path to removing content it did not like by making a copyright claim where none existed. DMCA takedown notices are, by far, the quickest and easiest way to get speech removed from the Internet. That makes them irresistible for companies, individuals, and even governments eager to censor online speech.

DMCA abuse flourishes because, in practice, companies that send improper notices don't face sufficiently serious consequences. This issue is currently before the Supreme Court in Lenz v. Universal. In that case, EFF represents Stephanie Lenz who posted a short video to YouTube showing her toddler son dancing to a Prince song. After Universal sent a takedown notice, Lenz sued arguing that the video was clearly fair use and the notice was sent in bad faith. Last year, the Ninth Circuit ruled that copyright holders must consider fair use before sending a takedown notice. Unfortunately, the appeals court also set a very high bar for enforcing that standard. It held that senders of false infringement notices could be excused so long as they subjectively believed that the material was infringing, no matter how unreasonable that belief. Lenz has asked the Supreme Court to review that aspect of the ruling.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7 [Bomb] [Hitman Niko/GTA 5 Mods]

Samsung Sets Its Reputation on Fire With Bogus DMCA Takedown Notices

[Daniel Nazer/EFF]