Richard Bartholomew, a longtime friend of Dispatches and a guy I respect a lot, has his blog taken down by his blog hosting service because of an absolutely ridiculous DMCA claim from Charlie Flowers, a British activist he had criticized. He tells the story at an alternative site:
Yesterday, my main site http://barthsnotes.com/ was taken down for about 12 hours. It is now back up, but with one entry missing, for 27 September 2012. This is due to a vexatious DMCA copyright infringement notice, made in bad faith by a man who wishes to suppress free discussion of his publicly-stated political views. The complaint concerned 16 words quoted from a Facebook discussion forum. Here’s the background.
A couple of weeks ago, I noted a typical piece of abuse by supposed “activist” Charlie Flowers. The context was the cancellation by Conway Hall in London of a planned debate between Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) of the English Defence League and Abdullah Al Andalusi of the Muslim Debate Initiative. Searchlight magazine was among those critical of the decision to hold the debate, and the venue cancelled the booking to avoid protests. Flowers and Al Andalusi subsequently discussed the matter on Facebook…
He quoted 16 words from the guy’s post on Facebook to criticize what he had said. And all of this was in England, where both of them live. But Bartholomew’s blog is hosted on an American server and the company that owns that server took down his entire blog when Flowers complained. There is no question whatsoever that this is covered under fair use, but the company doesn’t seem to care. And he’s right to say that this is dangerous:
If we take seriously Flowers’ claim that no-one should be allowed to quote (or even to report indirectly) what he has written, then there isn’t much hope for the future of any kind of discussion or reportage on the internet. Apparently, the only course of action that my webhost will accept is a “counter notice” from me, which has to contain my address and which will then be passed on to Flowers. If Flowers does not respond to that within two weeks, then the disputed content can be restored.
This is significantly different from posting a picture taken by someone else, something I’m vigilant about policing here when we get complaints about it (and I’ve made clear to all the bloggers that they must make sure they have permission before using any image). A photographic image is a separate work that can be copyrighted and if you use it, you’re using the entire copyrighted item; that is not true of quoting a portion of what someone says in a speech or article. If that was the case, blogs would virtually cease to exist because we would not be allowed to quote anything anyone else says in any forum.