Wednesday, January 11, 2012

metaDRAMA: Not the YMCA, but the DMCA?

Does anybody out there understand the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act)? I recently had a review of a show that I covered back in 2010 taken down off this site because it had in some way violated it (the DMCA), and I feel as if I've received no notice on how to actually go about rectifying my error -- if there was in fact one -- so that I might go ahead and re-post the (highly positive) review.

I've written before about my dislike of copyright acts in general, but now that I've had direct exposure to them as an independent writer who is outside of the mass media and therefore has no access to legal counsel or anything more than the flimsy and unhelpful FAQs and links provided upon receiving such a notice, I think I dislike them even more. I'm all in favor of checking piracy and preventing others from profiting directly from another person's work, but this is a site that runs no advertisements, makes no money, and, at worst, quotes only a few lines from a play -- and generally one in which I've been asked to review, as press. However, when we reach a point at which the organisms we set up to protect ourselves begin to encroach upon other people's speech, when these systems shut down the discussions they were originally established to protect, then we're at an issue.

I guess above all, I'm frustrated with how impersonal it all is. If I've made inaccurate statements in a review, playwrights, publicists, actors, directors, and even audience members are more than welcome to respond in comments or via e-mail, and I'm always willing to post an update or correction. Likewise, if photographers or playwrights think I've in some way misused their material, I'm more than willing to take something off the site if they simply contact me. The idea that you'd need to go to a third-party, to legally threaten and intimidate through a document which, mind you, I haven't even been able to see (since it goes directly to Google, I assume)  . . . well, that just seems silly.

If anybody else is out there in a similar situation, or has found themselves treading this water in the past, I'd appreciate any information you can pass along. Mind you -- I'm not in any actual trouble; as I said, the post has been automatically removed from the site, and I'm entitled to repost it if I remove the offending sections (never mind that I haven't been told what those are). This is more about the principle of thing; what happens if more of my reviews are suddenly and inexplicably taken down? What happens if this post is removed? We take our ability to blog and upload to the web as a given these days, especially me, as I've been doing this for seven years now, so I guess I'd just like a little more information.



Sneaky Snake said...

Hi Aaron--I'm not too hip to the DMCA, unfortunately, but this overlaps with issues I'm interested in / concerned about. Just to clarify: You received notification from Google (as the owner of Blogspot) that they had been informed of an infringement (by a government agency? some kind of monitoring body? an anonymous complaint?), and had removed the post in question? Do you have any guesses as to what the supposedly problematic material therein was? Any chance you could tell us what show this was for?

Again, I don't really know anything about how DMCA is actually enforced, nor what the immediate obligations of a host are upon receiving a notice or complaint, but I am generally concerned about copyright overreach and the shotgun C&D approach taken by overzealous rightsholders. The impersonality and lack of detail sound immensely frustrating, though perhaps unavoidable depending on how many of these complaints a firm like Google fields every day--I suspect that at some point after enough back and forth you'd be able to reach an actual thinking human being who could vet the situation or explain what was going on, cold comfort though that may be.

Aaron Riccio said...

No idea what the problematic content was; the show was "Re-Entry." Considering that I had no links in the post, I'm assuming that the issue was either with an improperly cited photo credit or something involving quotes from the script, but as I said in my post above, in either of those cases, especially since there was a press agent involved who provided said material, I would have expected a more direct means of contact than some sort of cease-and-desist sent to Google/Blogger.

Mind you, I don't blame Google for taking down the post -- they didn't delete it, they simply reverted it to a draft form -- as Google shouldn't have to vet the posts it has been asked to take down. I don't blame whoever sent the request, either; they probably have a just complaint. My concern is mainly in the way in which this doesn't actually help to solve the problem (in the long-term), since I still have no idea how to resolve things, and also in my worries for the future, in which scattershot (to extend your metaphor) C&D notices wind up hitting unintended targets.