Thursday, 17 May 2012

somuchnoisetobeheard vs. The RIAA

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is a United States copyright law that implements two 1996 treaties of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). 

DMCA Provision Title II, the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act ("OCILLA"), creates a safe harbor for online service providers (OSPs, including ISPs) against copyright infringement liability, provided they meet specific requirements. OSPs must adhere to and qualify for certain prescribed safe harbour guidelines and promptly block access to alleged infringing material (or remove such material from their systems) when they receive notification of an infringement claim from a copyright holder or the copyright holder's agent. OCILLA also includes a counter-notification provision that offers OSPs a safe harbour from liability to their users when users claim that the material in question is not, in fact, infringing. 

Google's Terms and Conditions state the following in relation to alleged copyright infringement;

"We respond to notices of alleged copyright infringement and terminate accounts of repeat infringers according to the process set out in the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act."

It goes on;

"Regardless of whether we may be liable for such infringement under local country law or United States law, our response may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity and/or terminating subscribers. If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we may notify the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that he or she can make a counter notification. It is also our policy to document all notices of alleged infringement on which we act, including by sending a copy of the notice to one or more third parties or making it available to the public."

On the 9th of May 2012, I received my first DMCA takedown notice via Google Blogger, quickly followed by a second takedown notice issued on the 11th May 2012. I was required to remove material from the two posts in question or face legal proceedings from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

Last month, my YouTube account was also the subject of a similar DMCA takedown notice in respect to a non-downloadable track I posted for promotional purposes.

Each of these takedown notices seem to have originated from the same source; the RIAA on behalf of EMI Music North America, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music Group. This is a puzzle to me as I generally don't touch anything related to a major label or multinational music conglomerate.

The aim of my blog has always been to promote smaller bands who I believe should be exposed to a greater audience. I have no interest in supporting the bland, soul destroying rubbish foisted on the general public by major record labels in the name of revenue generation for their greedy and corrupt owners. I am not out to self promote or make money, simply share my love of unusual, intelligent and life-affirming music with like minded people who may not have heard of the bands in question. I am therefore confused as to why the RIAA and the four major record labels noted above are issuing my blog with takedown notices.

Given the modest readership base, relatively low online profile and the short length of time my blog has been in operation, this is an extremely worrying development which cuts at the heart of internet freedom itself. I have researched this matter in depth and found cases where blog sites have been shut down following the issue of DMCA takedown notices for linking to tracks which were made available to download for free by the band themselves. Other alleged infringement cases include the use of images freely available via Google searches on a Google blog and the removal of a blog following the post of an unfavourable review of a major label band.

This puts me in an untenable position. If I continue to post links - even to out of print releases - then I run the risk of removal of my site by Google or even legal action being brought against me by the RIAA. I am therefore removing all existing links and will no longer provide links when posting new articles.

There are plenty of other resources out there offering this facility which somehow seem completely immune to the current DMCA laws including Google itself. Indeed, Google has recently argued that links to copyrighted material which are served following a search query are not breaking the law as they are merely pointing to another site where those links are available and therefore no law is broken by them.

I urge you to fight against this draconian law and the proposed SOPA and PIPA legislation in any way you can as it surely only benefits those who see revenue generation in music rather than the creation of great art or cultural enrichment.

"Words and sounds are nobody's personal property" - William S.Burroughs

Footnote - In the UK, our Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 states;

"Copyright is an automatic right and arises whenever an individual or company creates a work. To qualify, a work should be regarded as original, and exhibit a degree of labour, skill or judgement."

Given that all art is inherently mimetic, it could be argued that nothing is truly original and therefore cannot be protected by copyright laws.

Just a thought.

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