WordPress Files Lawsuits Over Bad Faith DMCA Takedown Notice

By Eric Misterovich

Automattic, Inc., a web development corporation that parents the free blogging tool, WordPress, has filed two separate lawsuits concerning egregious cases of Digital Millennium Copyright Act (“DMCA”) takedown notices. In filing these two suits, Automattic has paired up with the individuals who run the site RetractionWatch.com (“Retraction”) for one of the lawsuits, and student journalist Oliver Hotham, for the other.

 

Specifically the lawsuits concern parties using bad faith DMCA takedowns as a tool to censor criticizing content on websites, rather than for a legitimate copyright infringement claim. Notably, DMCA’s primary purpose is to allow copyright holders to request their work be taken down when there has been legitimate infringement of their work. However, the other side of DMCA, which Automattic seeks damages under, is section 512(f), which allows for lawsuits against anyone who “knowingly materially misrepresents” a case of copyright infringement. With easy-to-publish websites like YouTube, legitimate DMCA takedown notices are common, but as Automattic has increasingly seen, DMCA is also being abused with false complaints from individuals who simply dislike or disagree with content.

 

Here, the lawsuit involving Retraction, a blog that reports on retractions of scientific papers, stems from a reader’s dislike of a series of articles on site that were critical of researcher Anil Potti. In order to create an action under DMCA, that reader copied portions of the articles he disliked from Retraction, claimed the work as his own, and then issued a DMCA takedown notice against Retraction, the original authors. The second suit, involving Hotham, who publishes investigative articles on his own WordPress blog (see, http://oliverhotham.wordpress.com/), involves an interview that Hotham conducted with the group, Straight Pride UK, who after the publication of their interview, no longer liked what they had previously stated on record. Subsequently, they used DMCA as a tool to try and remove the article that included their interview quotes.

 

Automattic’s voluntarily support of its users in these lawsuits has grabbed attention because typically the focus of 512(f) claims deal directly with the website owners, not their hosting company. However, Automattic’s General Counsel, Paul Siemniski, explained that Automattic’s goals behind their actions are to deter copyright abusers from submitting fraudulent DMCA takedown notices, and additionally, to protect users’ First Amendment rights.

 

If you have been targeted by a bad faith DMCA takedown notice, contact the copyright lawyers at Revision Legal today at 855-473-8474.

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