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Environmentalists fight back, addressing important questions in the way the DMCA is used

The battlefield for the Digital Millenium Copyright Act just gained a new, unlikely set of occupants: environmentalists at SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

According to a lawsuit filed (PDF) by the Electronic Frontier Foundation on behalf of SHARK, the PRCA “abused” the Digital Millenium Copyright Act by filing over a dozen takedown notices when the environmentalist group posted videos of animal abuse on YouTube.

The PRCA oversees a large number of rodeo events in the United States. SHARK focuses primarily on animal cruelty in rodeos and bullfighting.

Initially, YouTube complied with the PRCA’s requests, taking down SHARK’s YouTube account and the videos – posted between December 2006 and December 2007 – around the middle of December 2007. The outage lasted for a little more than a week; on Christmas Day 2007, YouTube restored SHARK’s videos and account a series of counter-notifications sent by SHARK’s lawyers.

In its lawsuit, the Electronic Frontier Foundation alleges that the PRCA “misused” the DMCA’s copyright takedown facilities, by falsely asserting copyright over videos it didn’t own.

“Live rodeo events are not copyrightable and that the PRCA’s copyright claim was baseless,” reads the complaint.

“The PRCA may not like it when our clients raise tough questions about how animals are treated at rodeos, “ said EFF Attorney Corynne McSherry in a press release issued Monday. “This copyright claim is … made simply to block the public from seeing SHARK's controversial videos. The PRCA can't be permitted to silence its critics through a misuse of the law.”

“We can't let the PRCA continue to interfere with SHARK's free speech rights,” said SHARK investigator Michael Kobliska. “It's simply not right for us to waste our time and money dealing with these baseless DMCA takedowns that block our message from getting out to the public.”

The lawsuit seeks to prevent the PRCA from filing future copyright complaints or lawsuits against SHARK.

While a seemingly routine quibble between environmentalists and animal handlers may at first glance seem unimportant in the larger arena of digital rights, SHARK’s lawsuit can have larger ramifications. Copyright law enforces penalties for falsely misrepresenting ownership in a takedown request, and the DMCA’s takedown provisions have a history of misuse.

More importantly, rules set in the DMCA are beginning to establish, indirectly, an international precedent. Sweeping Canadian copyright legislation, dubbed the “Canadian DMCA” by its backers, seeks to install “draconian” copyright rules and penalties and is styled in a similar fashion to the American law by the same name. Techdirt reports that the Canadian bill nearly died in late 2007 due to a public outcry, but was recently reinstated on a “fast track” as its backers try to get the bill approved as soon as possible.

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Most Disturbing part
By dgingeri on 6/13/2008 8:05:15 AM , Rating: 5
the Canadian bill nearly died in late 2007 due to a public outcry, but was recently reinstated on a “fast track” as its backers try to get the bill approved as soon as possible.

This obviously means they are trying to get something passed against the will of the people. they want to get it passed, just like DMCA, before the general public knows about it. This shows they are bought and paid for by certain business leaders.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By MetaDFF on 6/13/2008 11:59:11 AM , Rating: 3
It seems this new bill is drawing some attention from the Canadian media.

Both the free newspapers "Metro" and "24 h" made the new copyright bill front page news. They even point out in the article that under the new legislation making copies of CDs and DVDs protected by DRM to your iPod would be illegal, which hopefully will raise some eyebrows. They do put some positive spin on the new bill by saying it will limit personal download infringement penalties to just $500.

Metro and 24 h both have a pretty large readership in Toronto, so hopefully it will draw more attention to the issue before the government has a chance to slip it under the radar.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By oab on 6/13/2008 2:30:17 PM , Rating: 4
If you want to fight the "Canadian DMCA" the best thing to do is this:

1) write a letter to Industry Minister Jim Prentice and Josée Verner Minister of Canadian Heritage, Status of Women.
2) Write a letter to your local MP
3) Write a letter to the opposition party (Liberals, NDP and Bloc) expressing your desire to kill the bill. It certainly will not be a confidence motion so they won't kill the government over it so they should have nothing to loose.
4) Send a letter to PM Harper
5) Send a letter to your local provincial legislature (these last two likely won't accomplish much, but do it just the same).

You can reach all of the above at (free, no stamp required):

<MP name here>
House of Commons
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A9.

Also go here and visit the online auto-email letter to your MP thing as well:

Their phone numbers/extensions can be reached by calling: 1 (866) 599-4999

Remember: letters and phone calls are more effective than emails with politicians.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By exanimas on 6/13/2008 4:38:34 PM , Rating: 3
>>"Remember: letters and phone calls are more effective than emails with politicians."

Because unfortunately a majority of the people that make laws about things that happen on the internet barely have any idea how to use it. (Yes, this is a generalization, but come on, one guy said it's a series of tubes.)

RE: Most Disturbing part
By Garreye on 6/15/2008 8:15:54 AM , Rating: 2
I think it also may have something to do with the ridiculous number of emails they receive every day.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By wjobs55 on 6/15/2008 7:05:10 PM , Rating: 2
Which only an intern glances over and deletes en masse.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By Ringold on 6/14/2008 6:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
Sounds to me like the Lisbon treaty in the EU; only one referendum.. and speaking of that, I just heard Ireland voted it down -- HOORAH!

Sounds also like how an immigration bill will likely get rammed through Congress at their earliest convenience, since the last time they tried countless thousands of people protested in front of congressional offices across the country.

As a small-government conservative I'd point out government is running roughshod over peoples desires throughout the West, but people only care when it is their particular interest at stake. By then, it's too late.

RE: Most Disturbing part
By wjobs55 on 6/15/2008 7:01:07 PM , Rating: 2
Currently I am in Canada and completely attest to that. The Canadians I talked to, all, more or less have the same thoughts.

The media report on this bill was more of an afterthought :(

"And boy have we patented it!" -- Steve Jobs, Macworld 2007

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