Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Copyright as Olympic Censorship Tool - Updated

Slashdot has a story about how the IOC invoked the DMCA to take down a pro-Tibet video that presumably offended it by showing the famous five rings being used as handcuffs or otherwise. The IOC appears to be doing a great job of censoring protest that would offend the Chinese government.

Follow the link to the Vimeo site and watch while you can. Warning - the video shows bloody and maybe even dead bodies.

This is not copyright infringement by any stretch under American case law. YouTube caved and took the video down, even though it could have assumed a minuscule theoretical risk and ignored the clearly baseless and abusive DMCA take down notice. Needless to say, this is disappointing and doesn't augur well for free speech or a "do no evil" approach.

It's clearly unrealistic to expect the protesters to fight back to put the video up - since this could risk exposure to the Chinese authorities. Would a protester in China who wishes to protest the YouTube takedown, be rational in providing, as required, by the DMCA:
The subscriber's name, address, and telephone number, and a statement that the subscriber consents to the jurisdiction of Federal District Court for the judicial district in which the address is located, or if the subscriber's address is outside of the United States, for any judicial district in which the service provider may be found, and that the subscriber will accept service of process from the person who provided notification under subsection (c)(1)(C) or an agent of such person.
I'm sure that the Chinese authorities would be quite interested in this information.

This is what the DMCA is all about. Bill C-61 is not quite as bad in this respect, as it is based upon notice and notice, rather than notice and takedown. This is one of the few positive aspects of Bill C-61. But, the sound recording and film folks may not be content to let it rest that way and may push for the "American way" if the Bill reaches Committee.


Apparently YouTube responded to copious criticism, including from your's truly, and questioned the IOC about this. The IOC relented and withdrew its takedown notice. This time.

But what about next time? The incident shows the potential for unchecked abuse of an American style notice and take down regime, which certain predictable American dominated trade associations will likely demand if the Canadian Bill C-61 moves forward as is.



  1. While I agree that one demerit of the counter-takedown provisions is that they may require an anonymous protester to lose anonymity, many protesters should be able to evade this problem by putting the video in the name of an organization based in a safe place. In this case, for example, if the Canada Tibet Committee were the copyright holder, there would be no problem.

    A potentially nice feature of the DMCA is section 512(f), which penalizes misrepresentation in takedown notices. It doesn't seem to have been used effectively in the US even though there have been quite a few cases of dubious takedown notices. I would hope that if bill C=61 survives it will contain an effective equivalent, with real penalties for false claims of copyright ownership as well as questionable claims of infringement.

  2. What this shows is that Canadians need to get more interested in the "fair use" debates going on, all over the web.

    The IOC has a history of bullying people who refer to the olympics, directly or not so their latest action with YouTube just follows along that "legal terror" path.

  3. Further to this discussion, you may like my video on the Future of Copyright:
    About the Future of Copyright: 1) An actual distinction between ‘Copy’ vs ‘Performance’ of digital content no longer exists 2) Even if it did: the ‘Selling of Copies’ is no longer a growing business, or a sustainable model 3) The exclusive right to ‘make copies’ is becoming impossible to enforce 3) Criminalization of Sharing and Policing of Web-Access is not the kind of ‘Justice’ our society can afford 4)New Permissions & ‘Usage-Rights’ for Digital Music can and will solve this problem..

  4. Censorship in America is a problem, too. NBC thinks they can censor amateur videos of the Olympics when there is no such thing as copyright to a sporting event. It's absurd and inhibits free speech.