The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was well intentioned legislation designed to protect websites from copyright infringement claims when the site owners are not the ones doing the infringing. For example, colleges and universities have entire student bodies pirating copyrighted music and films. They are not held liable for infringement if they take good-faith steps to stop the little darlings. So, warnings, monitoring, and the banishment from using the universities’ servers do the trick.
Likewise, Google and its YouTube and other sites have to follow a process when someone copyrighted material shows up on their sites. The process is the copyright owner or representative contacts Google and says, “Take it down. It’s infringement.” Google then takes it down.
The loophole in the process was that Google is not required to verify the authenticity of the party requesting the take-down. As a result, the diabolical among us have figured out that the way to get rid of negative stories, information, and opposing political views is to pose as their authors and request the take-down. So, those irritated with a Wall Street Journal editorial pose as the WSJ and write to the site linking or posting the editorial. They demand a take-down. Not wishing to lose the DMCA protection, the site asks no questions — it goes right for removal.
There are even fake law firms sending letters requesting take-downs. If the stationery is good enough, well, you get your wish. The WSJ did a story on this diabolical activity, using its own experience. Working with Google, the Journal restored 52,000 links that Google had removed pursuant to official requests.
Bad actors are a creative lot. The moral of the story is follow your links — see if they are still there. Until the U.S. Copyright Office finds a solution, we are responsible for policing the rogues.