Digital Millennium Copyright Act

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No, DMCA is not a band but it is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is a law in the United States that makes it easier for record labels to take down mp3s on blogs, amongst other copyright and internet issues. It was passed into law in 1998 by President Clinton, but I did not really know what it meant for music blogs until last week.

How it works is this: the DMCA gives copyright owners such as artists and labels, the right to serve what is known as a ‘takedown’ notice to ISPs and web hosting companies when a copyrighted work is being distributed on the internet, such as blogs. If the ISP/host chose to comply with this takedown notice by removing public access to the copyrighted content on their server, they will be exempt from future law suits from the copyright owner (eg. labels) relevant to this content. The person who puts up the content (eg. blogger) then get sa notice from the ISP/host informing that the content has been removed and that he/she can serve a counter-claim notice to the ISP/host challenging the takedown. The copyright owner then has 14 days to reply with a law suit to take the matter to court. If there is no law suit then the ISP/host can restore access to the copyrighted content.

Two weeks ago I received an email from my web hosting company Dreamhost informing me that they have received a takedown notice from the RIAA for this file: http://whothehell.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/07/pnauladyhawkemiamihorrorfalke.mp3

It’s from the Miami Horror and Fred Falke remix of PNAU’s new single Embrace (featuring Ladyhawke) post. What’s funny about the whole business is that I was given the file by the copyright owner, the label who commissioned this remix etcetc records who isn’t even registered with RIAA. They reconfirmed that they still want me to blog an mp3 of the track as it is part of their promotional strategy for the single servicing. So they emailed to Dreamhost asking the file to be put back up. Dreamhost replied by saying that we have to serve them a counter-claim, following the DMCA’s guidelines, and recommended that we get a lawyer to do it. They refused to do anything more, even checking if the original takedown notice was issued by a genuine claimant of the copyright material. Now I’ve been with Dreamhost for over 10 years and they’ve always been very good to me so I know they weren’t just being silly. Around the same time, Aleks Discodust emailed me saying that he too was with Dreamhost and that he had received the same notice, and wanted to check with me if that track was indeed still cleared to blog.

A quick search on the internet revealed that the DMCA has indeed many flaws, and there are sites that are dedicated to repealing this Act and even a site on takedown notices clearinghouse tracking the effects of the legislation and other similar law. One of the sites has example of how to write a counter takedown notice, so I did a simple cut and paste, filled in the details and sent it back not to Dreamhost but to antipiracy@riaa.com, letting them know that they are in no position to serve this notice in the first place because they don’t even represent the copyright owner of the song. And then I waited, to see if I’m going to be sued for blogging an mp3 I was given permission to. A few days passed, and then I received an email forward from Dreamhost, the RIAA has rescinded their notice and the file has been put back up online. It is now available again. whothehell.net 1, RIAA 0.

My post is just one of the many examples how this law is being misused. It’s true that the mp3, being hosted with Dreamhost a US company, fall under US court of law jurisdiction. But hosting companies are so fearful of being sued by labels, movie studios and huge bands like Metallica and U2 that as soon as they received a takedown notice they restrict access to the disputed file without even doing background checks to the validity of the notices.

Until now I have no idea which member RIAA, which label, served the notice. Pnau, Miami Horror and Fred Falke (as far as I know) isn’t signed to a US label. Ladyhawke is signed to Island/Universal, but this work isn’t hers, it’s Pnau’s. Perhaps someone in Island just googled ‘Ladyhawke’ and served notice to everyone that was hosting the file. But this recording was done before she signed to Island anyway. I have heard that there were no performance agreement with the song between Pnau and Ladyhawke, and as a condition Pnau isn’t allowed to advertise the song with Ladyhawke’s name or image in the press or videos. But that doesn’t stop bloggers like me attaching her name on it. No one told me not to mention her name in writing, and most bloggers spend a lot of time and money maintaining their websites purely for the love of the music, and they genuinely think by doing so help promote the artists’ work. So I don’t think I should be penalised for my support of the local music scene, if the whole Ladyhawke/Pnau agreement was indeed the reason the file got taken down.

Could this be some form of industrial sabotage? It would be very easy for other labels to serve takedown notices of rival label’s artists, and as a result derailing any promotional blogging campaign. It just seems to give not only copyright owners but anyone that the ISPs/host deemed legimate to takedown just about any mp3s.

All speculations aside, I hope by posting this I’ll bring more attention to this legislation. Have any other bloggers received a similar DMCA notice?

 

10 Responses

  1. Travis

    August 21, 2008 8:47 am

    i had a very, very similar thing happen with a track that was cleared for blogging. eventually got the notice rescinded and the track re-hosted, but it’s a pain in the ass so i sympathize.

    i also had a youtube video removed because i called it “little birds” and apparently there is an artist or song or something on sony records called little birds. there wasn’t even music in the video… it was just little birds. how can something so generic be removed?

    i think most of the RIAA DCMA notifications are from bots and they look for key words. which is stupid.

    as a preventive measure there should be a counter fine every time somebody falsely files a DCMA notice — it can be nominal like $1. i mean shouldn’t the RIAA and IFPC be held responsible for when they act irresponsibly as well?? and they cost the time and money of not only the blogger but also the hosting company. of course this will never happen in the USA where congressmen are bought and paid for by big business.

    ANYWAY. re-upping the pnau remix on bigstereo now — i had removed it after it was taken down from here and discodust. annoying.

    Reply
  2. aleks discodust

    August 21, 2008 9:12 am

    first of all: thanks for taking care of this, man.

    and i was kind of shocked how easy it is for the riaa to send out a random takedown notice, only based on assumptions and a script that was probably quickly hacked together by a programmer in some basement.

    i will get in touch with dreamhost about this as well, pointing them to your blog. i see their point too, i mean how are dreamhost supposed to know about all that copyright stuff, so ‘of course’ they did comply when the takedown notice hit them.

    but the riaa should know better, so i also agree with travis, they should be charged for pulling something like that. and fact is: if i’d act as random and foolish as that in my day-job, treating our customers like shit, i’d be jobless by now.

    don’t bite the hand that feeds. in a not too distant future, they’ll seriously regret it.

    Reply
  3. Dj Donna Summer

    August 21, 2008 11:49 am

    >i mean shouldn’t the RIAA and IFPC be held responsible for when they act irresponsibly as well?<

    Dude- of COURSE NOT! The RIAA has been given basically any sort of rights they want because they represent big-money in an administration who will suck anything to get at it. The RIAA is not a government agency, but it has been “given powers” to suggest it is as scary as the CIA… Hopefully things change in a few months, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Reply
  4. Luke Electrorash

    August 21, 2008 11:57 am

    Yeah, we’ve been hit with a couple of takedowns, most notable of which was for The Shoes’ remix of Wiley’s ‘Wearing My Rolex’. We had recieved posting permission from The Shoes, both from the artists and the manager, so it came as somewhat of a shock to receive such a detailed and intimidatory request. This now makes me think we may have had sufficient claim to re-up the track, but by that point the post was around two months old so it seemed a tad redundant. Ah well, the bully boy, rearguard tactics of a dying system.

    Reply
  5. jessie pink

    August 21, 2008 10:01 pm

    RIAA- Bob Lefsetz is basically describing it as the lovechild of universal and Doug Morris, number 1 on his list of enemies.

    “Despite the aegis of caring about music and consumers he’s an ignorant old man who is single-handedly holding back the monetization of recorded music online.

    No one who sues his own customers can give a shit about them. That’s like killing slaves for their own good.

    And, believe me, RIAA policy is Universal Music policy. Based on the company’s market share, if nothing else.”

    Also on this list is Bill Clinton… For passing laws such as this.

    Instead of ratting on the internet, isp’s and p2p sharing record labels and artists should be embracing the opportunities it offers and thinking outside the square (think Radiohead/Girl Talk). How frustrating for you the bloggers who are contributing to the promotion of great Australian music to have to deal with the time consuming and frustrating offshoots of these sort of deals.

    Rant over… but I could go on all day.

    Reply
  6. Jason Pickett

    October 9, 2008 3:56 am

    I have survived 2 x DMCA notices, 2 x Copyright breaches.
    My site is still up & running on a USA server -
    almost 5 years later.
    My Government, Australian, tried everything they could to shut me up. I’m still here -
    My site shows & proves that they (Centrelink, Australia’s Federal Welfare Agency) had lied in court, falsified evidence, withheld vital evidence, changed my files & invaded my privacy.
    All I can say for now, is -

    “Stand Your Ground -
    Tell The People -
    Don’t Let The Government Push You Around -
    You Have A Choice -
    Fight Back – !!!!

    Thanx Monty Burns Thanx

    Reply
  7. ekko

    November 2, 2008 8:28 pm

    Thanks for the shout out. I think we should all file DMCA notices against the RIAA’s own website, as well as Columbia, BMG, CBS, etc.

    Reply
  8. Ed

    December 17, 2008 6:37 pm

    I have had four notices. I am fed up to the back teeth with all of this. What annoyed me with my latest was that all THE TRACKS i HAD POSTED IN MY fESTIVE FIFTY OF THE YEAR HAD BEEN OBTAINED LEGALLY FOR FREE. The DMCA and the RIAA should be sabotaged. They are a massive threat to music.

    Reply

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