Oracle Scratchpad

August 26, 2010

DMCA

Filed under: Non-technical — Jonathan Lewis @ 9:41 pm BST Aug 26,2010

Some readers have noticed that a few links to my blog seem to be broken. Don’t panic, it’s not permanent it’s just the result of Don Burleson losing his temper.

Let me start by telling you about DMCA, the “Digital Millenium Copyright Act”. DMCA is a mechanism designed to protect Internet service providers (ISPs) from being sued over content published by their customers by allowing them to act as a communication channel and staying out of the line of fire.

The protocol is simple:

  • Person B decides that Person A has copied material for which person B holds the copyright.
  • Person B emails A’s ISP with a message swearing that he (or she) really, truly, believes there is a case for breach of copyright, supplying a link to the original source and (in principle) exact details of the copied material.
  • The ISP takes down the offending article and informs person A of the “DMCA take-down notice”.
  • At this point person A simply has to send an email to the ISP swearing that the article really, truly, doesn’t breach person B’s copyright.
  • The ISP restores the article and sends the DMCA counter-claim to Person B
  • At this point the ISP is in the clear and it’s up to Person B to pursue the copyright claim against Person A in court.

The protocol is necessary because (in general) you wouldn’t want your ISP to be be shut down or bankrupted because of the actions of a single individual who was abusing the services. On the downside, the protocol does enable individuals to make nuisances of themselves – particularly in an arena which should be open to technical discussion and peer review.

The Oracle community needs to see proper discussion about features and mechanisms, and the associated benefits and risks; good information needs to be promoted while misunderstandings, outdated ideas and plain old rubbish need to be exposed for what they are. But how can this discussion take place if you are not allowed to quote extracts of material published by other people ? How can you say “Person X makes this claim, but the numbers he’s published show something completely different” if Person X sends a DMCA takedown to your ISP the moment you quote anything from his article ?

So the DMCA is an aid to getting information onto the Internet because it allows the ISPs to operate; but they’re only protected if they ignore any thoughts of applying the “fair use” principle that normally guides copyright law – leaving the mechanism open to abuse from those who aren’t prepared to accept any review of their work.

What, you may ask, has this to do with Don Burleson? Simple – he’s sent five DMCA notices to my ISP, resulting in 5 articles being taken down.

I could, of course, find some way of editing out the words the Mr. Burleson claims are in breach of copyright … except he didn’t specify which bits are in breach. Alternatively I could just send back a DMCA counter-claim … except that I think he’s abusing the system, and I really don’t like the idea of people trying to take advantage of a system that’s supposed to aid the free flow of good information.

What I have done is to send a polite note to Mrs. Burleson pointing out the unreasonable nature of Mr. Burleson’s claims and suggesting that she arrange to get the DMCA notices cancelled. After a brief exchange of email we got to the point where she asked me if I knew what procedure she should follow to cancel the DMCA take-downs. Unfortunately something seemed to go wrong with the Burleson Consulting email server at that point because it suddenly appeared as if the email I was sending simply wasn’t getting through to Mrs. Burleson.

Update 6th September: This morning I received copies of email that Mrs. Burleson had sent to WordPress (automattic.com) asking them to cancel the DMCA take-down notices. Because of this I have archived the initial comments that people had made, and edited the second half of the note. (Apologies to anyone who had made a contribution to the discussion, but I felt that Mrs. Burleson deserved some acknowledgement for her response to the situation.)

1 Comment »

  1. “Mrs. Burleson” – was it his mum who cancelled the DMCA?

    Comment by Allan Robertson — February 24, 2011 @ 10:51 am BST Feb 24,2011 | Reply


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