More Crappy Censorship From Your Friends at Yahoo!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG2i_5i9OqE]

Possibly The Most Ridiculous DMCA Take Down Yet

Mike Arrington has a blog post over at TechCrunch regarding a recent censorship case over at Yahoo where taking down and destroying user’s content seems to be business as usual.

In this most recent case, Loren Feldman uploaded a video mocking Shel Israel and the Village People to Yahoo Video only to see his video taken down after an extremely weak DMCA notice was presented by Scorpio Music.

The video in question, embedded above, certainly would fall into the fair use category. It is absolutely parody which is protected as fair use and the amount of the song used is a brief snippet, also brief enough to count as fair use even if the video was not parody.

But in typical Yahoo “shoot first ask questions later” fashion, they have removed Feldman’s video. They also sent him a threatening email saying that they could terminate all of his yahoo services and deactivate his Yahoo ID. Fortunately a copy of the video in question still exists over at Google on YouTube as embedded above. I guess Google cares a little bit more about a user’s fair use rights than Yahoo does.

It is terrible that it seems that anybody in the world can send a DMCA notice, valid or not, to Yahoo and get them to censor user content. Personally I think Yahoo has a higher obligation to the users who use their sites.

A while back Michael Crook sent Yahoo a bogus DMCA takedown request for one of my photos on Flickr. How did Yahoo handle this? They not only removed the perfectly valid and legal photo in question. But they *permanently* destroyed the uploaded photo along with dozens of comments. Later on Crook resceinded his bogus DMCA notice in my case but it was too late. The photo I’d posted and all of the comments were permanently erased by Yahoo from the internet.

A similar thing happened to Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir who also saw Yahoo destroy her photo along with over 450 comments which Flickr Chief Stewart Butterfield later chalked up as a “mistake,” to the BBC News.

The problem with Yahoo! is that these “mistakes,” only seem to get apologized for when they receive a lot of publicity. How many hundreds or thousandhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifs of Yahoo users have simply seen their content destroyed by Yahoo and didn’t really have the voice or reach to really do anything about it.

Shame on Yahoo for censoring Loren. And shame on them for treating their users so poorly. Yahoo should take more care when reviewing DMCA takedown notices and give their users the respect that they truly deserve.

It will be interesting to see if Microsoft does a better job with the censorship once they take Yahoo over here shortly.

On Slashdot here.

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32 comments on “More Crappy Censorship From Your Friends at Yahoo!
  1. Rich says:

    Thomas,

    I would like to have examples of companies that handle DMCA warnings too your liking. Large companies that are not scared of the DMCA.

  2. Do you intend to add a disclaimer that you are CEO of Zoomr, a competitor of one of Yahoo’s products?

    I dunno that might add some bias to the topic.

  3. Thomas Hawk says:

    Judson, that disclaimer if featured prominently on my blog. I’ve long been a critic of censorship both on the internet and at Yahoo well before my affiliation with Zooomr.

    Censorship sucks. Pure and simple.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    I would like to have examples of companies that handle DMCA warnings too your liking.

    Rich, personally I’ve never been censored by Google, Microsoft, or any other site other than Yahoo.

    In but one of my own cases of censorship at Yahoo, the case with the Michael Crook photo, Crook sent lots of other DMCA notices to other companies. The only company that censored me personally was Yahoo.

    Is your point though that if other companies censor that it’s a-ok for Yahoo to do it as well? Censorship’s fine if everybody’s doing it?

  5. Mike Pearce says:

    Judson, The fact that Thomas is the CEO of Zooomr has bugger all to do with this post, which is *almost* a trackback to the Techcrunch post.

    I don’t follow the industry as closely as some, but I remember three recent “mistakes” that Yahoo/Flickr made, one can be a mistake, two can be a ballsup but three times?

    How can Yahoo justify caving in to these requests sooo quickly? Surely it’s in the best interest of their customers (the people who pay the bills) to investigate everything, then start shooting?

    Bloody cowboys.

  6. James says:

    I don’t think Thomas being CEO of Zoomr affects his view on this since he does upload to Flickr.

    Anyway I hope you had that photo elsewhere!

  7. BillyWarhol says:

    Interesting yet not Surprizing*

    I still wanna go Toe to Toe w/ Flickr over that Gail Orenstein Debacle*

    Anywhere Anytime*

    Let’s Get it On!!

  8. Aaron says:

    I could be wrong, but my understanding of the DMCA is that the recipient of a notice must honor that request and remove the material. There’s a process to file a counter-notice under the “safe harbor” provisions of the DMCA, which then forces the infringer to file a lawsuit within 14 days or the material should be re-published. Yes, the system defaults to “trusting” the person making the takedown notice, but if that’s how the law is designed, placing fault with Yahoo for following the law seems out of place.

  9. Thomas Hawk says:

    I could be wrong, but my understanding of the DMCA is that the recipient of a notice must honor that request and remove the material.

    Aaron, they are not obligated to takedown bogus requests. This was a bogus request. They certainly can review the requests and choose not to act in cases that are not legitimate.

  10. Robert Robbins says:

    YouTube removes videos all the time and suspends user accounts without warning or explanation. It has the YouTube Community threatening to create their own site in revolt.

  11. Aaron says:

    Aaron, they are not obligated to takedown bogus requests. This was a bogus request. They certainly can review the requests and choose not to act in cases that are not legitimate.

    I think I’d like to leave the questions of legitimacy and copyright law to be decided by a court, rather than a web hosting company.

  12. ranpha says:

    There is no such thing such as bogus DMCA requests. Companies by default has to believe that a DMCA request is genuine and then take down the material in question. Yahoo! has done the right thing here.

    But then again, all DMCA requests are bound by perjury laws, so if you think that the DMCA request is bogus, you can file a counter-notice and Yahoo! will be obliged to make the material available again. If Yahoo! does not, they are the ones that is violating the DMCA and you can take action against them.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The issue here is not whether a “possible” violation should be taken down. Yes, it should per the guidelines of DMCA requests. If the post disputes it, they should be able to counter claim.

    However, hosting company in turn should be protecting their customers’ “user generated content.” For example, the uploaded file and comments should be retained temporally of line. So that if reviewed and the alleged violation does not hold up, the content including user comments can be reinstated.

    If after the allotted time elapses and the poster does not offer a counter notice, then the data is fully wiped from the server.

  14. Rich says:

    Thomas,

    I have heard DMCA pull down complaints from all the major online content hosting companies and most of the major web hosting companies. This is including Yahoo, Youtube/Google, and Myspace. Do you know your content on other services have received DMCA warnings and ignored them? Is there proof that other companies handle DMCA warnings in ways other that Yahoo?

    My point is that your complaint is misplaced. The problem is not Yahoo, but with the law. The DMCA needs to be changed to reduce abuse. It is the law that has the power of censorship, not companies.

    BTW, how many DMCA warnings has Zoomr received?

  15. Anonymous says:

    So the problem lies with Scorpio Music … according to the interpretation of the DMCA in the above comments, they committed perjury when they filed a bogus take-down notice with Yahoo. Perhaps some attorney general should ask for all the take-down notices received by Yahoo (and others) to see if there is a pattern of dis-regarding the fair-use provisions of copyright law when issuing these notices?

  16. Eden says:

    A friend of mine pointed me here. I think my case against UMPG might interest you. If a bogus DMCA takedown notice was filed against you, you may have a case as well.

  17. gsyoungblood says:

    The problem is the DMCA itself.

    Under the DMCA if Yahoo does not take down the video they could lose their immunity from liability. What this person needs to do is file a DMCA response to restore the video. Yahoo can then restore the content with their immunity in tact.

    Yahoo can not judge whether the take down is legit or not or whether the content is fair use or not, they have to take action from the take down notice.

    That said, if Yahoo really wants to be “good guys” here, they should have an extremely easy “point and click” way to provide a legitimate response to make it easier for the content creator to restore their content under the DMCA process, instead of threatening letters like they appear to have sent this person.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t this America? Whatever happened to “Innocent until Proven Guilty”?

    Why do we permit our government to enact these types of laws based on he said/she said.
    person1 sends proper notice to serviceprovider that contentA infringes on their copyright. The serviceprovide takes down contentA. person2 sends proper notification to serviceprovider that contentA is not an infringement. serviceprovider puts content back up.

    The only requirement here is that the notifications must be properly formed. Verification of the notice is not required. Any one else see the huge potential for a Denial of Service attack with this process?

  19. This, unfortunately, is why I trust nothing I care about to yahoo – been there, done that. I consider it a toy – I only have a flickr account to share photos with the strobist group. Otherwise I’ll stick with my smugmug stuff.

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  23. Caaronmd says:

    This is very much of a piece with an experience I ahve had with them regarding customer service and an unjustly frozen account. They are truly worthless.
    I now do Google for all my online stuff, I wouldn’t trust yahoo for anything other than posting rude emails in a discussion group

  24. macmanchgo says:

    I am currently in a similar situation with youtube who has taken down my video of a Village People performance of YMCA. It appears that the YMCA management company, Scorpio Music, is in a highly aggressive mood on their work. My research is picking up numerous reports of legal action initiated by the Scorpio Music, plus the Village People group itself is embroiled internally with legal battles between members. When Scorpio Music takes on individuals on a case by case basis they win by shear intimidation, because we are not organized, but we do have recourse. Scorpio Music is obviously infringing on copyrights that would be owned by the owners of the YMCA name, that is, the Young Men’s Christian Association. Get the real YMCA to initiate (or reinitiate) procedings against Scorpio Music and have them see how it feels to be on the other end of the DMCA stick.

  25. I am currently in a similar situation with youtube who has taken down my video of a Village People performance of YMCA. It appears that the YMCA

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  27. think my case against UMPG might interest you. If a bogus DMCA takedown notice was filed against you, you

  28. think my case against UMPG might interest you

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