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October 8, 2012
How Companies Get To Censor the Internet
Following up on the previous post about official (government) censorship, Boingboing pointed me to a TorrentFreak story on the mass-mailing of DMCA takedown notices. As I noted, you don't have a free speech right when facing private entities, but likewise private entities ought not to be able to block large chunks of public speech they don't like.
In this case the villain is Microsoft, but you can find hundreds of similar instancse going back to the earliest days of the DMCA, and the story is always the same: $player sends thousands of takedown notices for material in which it claims copyright. The recipient takes down the material and may or may not notify $targets that their stuff is no longer visible. If $target is a big entity with lawyers and money it can usually get its stuff back online, quickly. If $target is you or me, we are (as my kids like to say) ood-scray.
In this case Microsoft clearly went bananas, targeting its own search engine Bing along with other things. But the specifics aren't the point here - the point is that the automated spewing of these notices is now routine and widespread practices and there are no requirements that $player emit only reasonable notices, or are there any penalties for failing to do so. I still think that the DMCA Safe Harbor idea is a sound one, but it clearly needs additional regulatory strength to curb abuses and stop companies controlling online speech.
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