Twitter Taking Down Tweets Over Bogus DMCA Claims

April 27th, 2010 · No Comments

You may recall the controversy over Google reacting too aggressively in pulling down music blog posts (or entire blogs) based on DMCA takedown notices. Eventually, Google revamped its DMCA policy to better handle the situation, though there have still been some complaints. Tim Dickinson alerts us to a similar situation with Twitter — except the details suggest it’s much worse, and involves a clear abuse of the DMCA (which Twitter should be standing up to).

The story involves a music blogger named JP, who runs the appropriately named JP’s blog. Not surprisingly, JP also has a Twitter account, where he mostly seems to post links to his blog posts. One such post was about the leak of the new album by The National. That post includes a link to Amazon where people can purchase the new album… and also a link to a download of one song (in MP3 format) from the album.

Someone — and it’s not at all clear who — apparently filed a DMCA claim over the Twitter message about the leak, and Twitter responded by taking down the tweet and sending JP a note:


jp917, Apr 22 03:10 pm (PDT):
Hello,
The following material has been removed from your account in response to a DMCA take-down notice:
Tweet: http://twitter.com/jp917/statuses/12499491144 — New Post: Leaked: The National — High Violet http://jpsblog.net/2010/04/20/leaked-the-national-high-violet/

There are all sorts of problems with this that suggest a pretty big abuse of the DMCA, but first we should address a couple problems with JP’s blog post about this situation. First, he puts the blame fully on Twitter, claiming that it’s “Twitter” sending the DMCA takedown notices. That’s not really true. Twitter is receiving a takedown notice (in theory) from the copyright holder, and Twitter is merely responding to that takedown and notifying the user. Second, JP claims that he only linked to Amazon and not to a download, but looking at his blog post, there are two clear links to a single song from the album — one at Mediafire and the other via Box.net. He makes no claim that these are authorized, so perhaps they are potentially infringing, which makes things a bit messier. It is true that his main link is to Amazon, encouraging people to purchase, but there are those MP3 links as well (though, again, only to a single song, not the whole album).

Even so, this whole thing is troubling and a clear abuse of the DMCA — which you would hope Twitter would stand up against. Specifically, nothing in the tweet itself is infringing — which means that the DMCA takedown for the tweet is bogus, and a violation of the DMCA itself. Even if there was a link in the post that’s infringing, we’re talking about a takedown on a tweet that links to a blog that links to a potentially infringing file. That tweet itself is not a violation of copyright law in any way, and the takedown notice is clearly fraudulent. Pretending that anything that links to a page that links to a potentially infringing file is, by itself, copyright infringement, is clearly ridiculous.

On top of that, there have already been questions asked about the copyrightability of Twitter messages, and it’s rare that such tweets would be covered by copyright. In this case, it’s unlikely that there’s any copyright (the tweet was just a headline, and for the most part, you can’t copyright headlines). Even if it was covered by copyright, it would be JP’s copyright for having written the headline. In other words, there’s nothing in the tweet that is held as a copyright by someone else, and thus the takedown message itself was a clear abuse of the DMCA — and a violation of basic First Amendment principles, as the takedown sought not to takedown copyrighted material (as allowed by the DMCA), but to silence conversation about a leak of an album through misuse of copyright law.

It’s unfortunate that Twitter decided to take the easy way out and automatically pull down the clearly non-infringing message with no review whatsoever. It’s actions like that which encourage more abuse of the DMCA. Doubly unfortunate is that nowhere does Twitter tell JP who sent the bogus takedown. It could be the band itself, or perhaps its label — which appears to be Beggars Group (who is generally not so bad on these sorts of things). Either way, this is unfortunate on multiple levels. The takedown notice was clearly bogus (whoever sent it) and Twitter’s response is unfortunate. I would have expected better from a company like Twitter.

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