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
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.