our first season of magazine issues in .pdf format, and it’s been a smashing
success. We’ve been getting hits for our little space opera magazines at Scribd
from all over the planet! Ray Gun Revival was featured as scifi.com’s Site of the Week in
June, 2007. I don’t know how they found us, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it
didn’t come about because of the sort of exposure we enjoy at Scribd. But then
something weird happened. We received a notification that one of our issues had
been taken down because ‘because the copyright owner contacted us and asked us
to.’ That statement was of great interest to us, because we hold the copyrights
for these issues at the magazine. Puzzled, we queried Jason Bentley, Director
of Community Development at Scribd. What unfolded next was a flat-out surprise.The entity
that filed the DMCA take down request was SFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.
They, of course, have nothing to do with RGR. Jared Friedman, President of
Scribd, responded personally. He agreed it looked like there was some confusion,
and attached a DCMA counter-notification form. He wrote that Scribd would
forward the counter-notification to the organization which complained about the
document ‘and most likely reinstate the material.’ He even followed up a couple
of hours later as I was checking and double-checking our contract language and
discussing the situation with our leadership circle.I understand
that the next step is to wait for ten days while the DMCA wheels churn. If we
are successful, our issue in question will be reinstated at Scribd. However, in
the interim, I notice now that another issue has been taken down as a result of
a SFWA request. This behavior is irritating at least and draconian at best, and
we wonder if the SFWA doesn’t have better things to do.
Whether this is
a misunderstanding or not isn’t the issue.
is apparent is that the SFWA are policing Scribd, filing take down notices on
behalf of organizations they have nothing to do with. In our case, they’re
not only not protecting our magazine, they are harming our ability to gain the most exposure for our contributors through cool services such as Scribd.
1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act allows copyright holders to use
"notices" to force ISPs to remove material from the Internet on a
mere say-so. In the real world, you couldn't get a book taken out of a
bookstore or an article removed from the newspaper without going to court and
presenting evidence of infringement to a judge, but the DMCA only requires that
you promise that the work you're complaining about infringes, and ISPs have to
remove the material or face liability for hosting it.
by sending a DMCA notice to Scribd, SFWA
has perjured itself by swearing that every work on that list infringed a
copyright that it represented
Since this is
not the case, SFWA has exposed itself to tremendous legal liability. The DMCA grants copyright holders the power
to demand the removal of works without showing any evidence that these works
infringe copyright, a right that can amount to de facto censorship when
exercised without due care or with malice. The courts have begun to
recognize this, and there's a burgeoning body of precedent for large judgments
against careless, malicious or fraudulent DMCA notices -- for example, Diebold was
ordered to pay $150,000 to 125,000 for
abusing the DMCA takedown process.
I am a former
Director of SFWA, and can recall many instances in which concern over legal
liability for the organization swayed our decision-making process. By sending
out this indiscriminate dragnet, SFWA has been exposed to potential lawsuits
from all the authors whose works they do not represent, from the Scribd users
whose original works were taken offline, and from Scribd itself.
copyright campaigns have been increasingly troublesome. In recent years,
they've created a snitch line
where they encourage science-fiction lovers to fink on each other for copying books, created
a loyalty oath for members
in the guise of a "code of conduct" in which we are supposed to
pledge to "not plagiarize, pirate, or otherwise infringe intellectual
property rights (copyright, patent, and trademark) or encourage others to do
What business SFWA has in telling its members how to think about,
say, pharmaceutical patents, database copyrights, or trademark reform is beyond
me. In 2005, SFWA sent out a push-poll
to its members trying to scare members off of giving permission to Amazon
to make the full text of their books search able online.
Mr. Capobianco posted an announcement on the SFWA Livejournal blog that the SFWA ePiracy Committee has been suspended and disbanded. It is also forming a new committee to take a fresh look at SFWA's position on electronic rights issues going forward, and John Scalzi has made himself available for that new committee.
quote: As for using a bot, when they were looking to protect a large number of works by many many of their members, how were they supposed to locate all the infringing works? Do you have any suggestions?