Automattic, the WordPress hosting company, has long followed the letter of the DMCA in respect to copyright. This means that the company will side with a complainant rather than a customer, essentially allowing anyone to cite copyright violations in order to have anything pulled from their servers. This led to some sad cases involving heterosexual rights groups attacking journalists using the very tools designed to protect them.
Now they’re fighting back. Two bogus claims, one against journalist Oliver Hotham and another against a blog covering scientific research have finally led the company to sic its lawyer Paul Sieminski on these fraudulent uses of the DMCA.
These cases are both infuriating and increasingly common. While there are no legal consequences (like fines) under the DMCA for copyright abusers, there is a provision that allows victims of censorship (and their web hosts) to bring legal action against those who submit fraudulent DMCA notices. So today, we’ve joined with Oliver, Ivan, and Adam to take a small strike back at DMCA abuse. We’ve filed two lawsuits for damages under Section 512(f) of the DMCA, which allows for suits against those who “knowingly materially misrepresent” a case of copyright infringement.
As Cory Doctorow wrote: Bravo. This is an important move for Automattic and their paid WordPress platform and, while potentially expensive, I think it’s the only way forward for companies like Tumblr and Medium. Content players don’t get to have it both ways – they don’t get to bask in terabytes of free content and monetized traffic and then curl up when someone complains about said traffic. While it’s WordPress’ right to take down everything (hell, they can even shut down if it gets too tough for them), their tendency to cave at the first sign of trouble was craven and selfish. While blog hosts aren’t beholden to the public trust, they sure act like they’d like to be. This, hopefully, will right some of those wrongs.