WordPress.com’s parent company Automattic is putting its money where its mouth is when it comes to democratizing publishing. Filing two lawsuits under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Automattic claims that the two parties knowingly submitted fraudulent takedown notices.
Through these suits, we’d like to remind our users that we’re doing all we can to combat DMCA abuse on WordPress.com…and most importantly, remind copyright abusers to think twice before submitting fraudulent takedown notices. We’ll be watching, and are ready to fight back.
The first lawsuit involves Retraction Watch, a website run by science journalists Ivan Oransky and Adam Marcus. Retraction Watch covers the retraction of scientific papers, offering a window into the (sometimes sordid) scientific process.
A researcher who was unhappy with Retraction Watch’s coverage allegedly copied portions of the Retraction Watch site onto his own site, and claimed the work as his own. That researcher then issued a DMCA takedown notice against Retraction Watch, forcing WordPress.com to take the site down.
The second lawsuit involves Oliver Hotham, a journalism student in the United Kingdom. Oliver published material about an anti-gay group called Straight Pride UK on his blog, based on a press release the group itself had sent him after he identified himself as a freelance journalist.
Oliver’s post then “gained a lot of traction,” causing Straight Pride UK to have second thoughts. To censor Oliver’s post after he refused to take it down, Straight Pride UK issued a DMCA takedown notice. You can read about Oliver’s frustration with the experience here.
As explained on Gizmodo, the DMCA is invoked “hundreds of thousands (if not millions)” of times per day to take down digital content that the owners of the copyright believe infringes on their property. Many of these claims are legitimate, but there is also a lot of abuse of the DMCA as a form of censorship.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has said:
As long-term veterans of the DMCA wars, we know these legal fights aren’t always easy, and that many users fear to stand up and defend themselves against false, even harassing, infringement allegations. It’s a big help when your service provider stands with you. Well done, Retraction Watch, Oliver Hotham, and Automattic.
We here at Torque wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of the EFF. Automattic’s willingness to take these matters to court show that they really are serious about democratizing publishing. The lawsuits also provide a deterrent to those who might be tempted to abuse the DMCA with fraudulent takedown notices in the future.
What are your thoughts on WordPress’s stance against censorship?
Kirby Prickett is Torque’s Editorial Assistant. She hails from the Land Down Under, where she worked in economic consulting and government. You can find more of Kirby’s writing on her blog, where she writes about books, film, San Francisco, yoga and other topics that take her fancy.