A recent episode that affected this site serves as a reminder that not only is the DMCA law regularly abused, but that well-intentioned, even careful, bloggers bear the brunt of litigious extremists.
Last week, my hosting company and Cloud Flare (an intermediary) received a DMCA complaint regarding Doubtful News.
I have redacted parts because the complainant is – how can I put this nicely – overly protective of her name and trademark. Only the bracketed parts have been changed in the quote below:
I, […] does not give this owner of website (s) permission to use my trademark name for any advertising on the internet or anywhere being that the words “Psychic” and “[R]” are not to appear sequentially in any domain name, on any website including the description, content, and meta tags. As the Federal Court Judge Ordered there should be words in between the word “Psychic” and “[R]”
The post cited was this one, reporting on a news item of some note that was also covered by mainstream press.
This person has trademarked her psychic name (not her real name). She alleged that I am using that trademark. I contend that I did no such thing. The post in question had nothing to do with this person. It also did not “advertise” anything. I did not capitalize the word “Psychic” but was using that term colloquially, not specifically. It just so happens that the name in question was not uncommon, either.
I responded to Cloud Flare declaring the absurdity of the claim. A week later, I receive this from my web hosting company:
We received a complaint that you posted certain infringing material on your website without the owner’s authorization. This email is to notify you of the suspension of your web hosting account and related services pending resolution of this matter.
As you know, our services permit customers to host and make available content over the Internet. Although we do not affirmatively screen customer content, we also do not tolerate infringing material on our equipment, and may suspend a site that appears to infringe on any intellectual property rights. Due to the potential legal exposure to us, no prior notice of a suspension is generally given and in most cases customers are informed by the complainant of the complaint.
Therefore, my site was offline (with even the backend inaccessible) from at least 5PM EST on October 29, 2013. In order to get the site back up and running, I was forced to acquiesce to this ridiculous request even though I did not infringe. After filling out a form attesting that I would fix the problem, I was given access back to the site at around 6:30 PM. I then revised the post to remove the word “psychic” but admitted zero wrongdoing in my followup to the hosting company. I also sent an email to the complainant to explain my position, hoping to resolve the matter. At the time of this posting, I have not received a reply. A cursory search of Google did not reveal that she had any record of legal action. But I noticed that the original post is still out there.
The COPYRIGHT CLAIMS POLICY for the web hosting company says this:
[…], INC. (“[…]”) supports the protection of intellectual property.
But not their customers right to speech, I guess. It would have taken all of five minutes upon examination of this claim to see that it was baseless. But the hosting company did not do that. They may get dozens of these complaints, so I understand they do not wish to get involved, however, it would have taken so little to show this for what it was. In two previous incidents that I inadvertently used a photo that was later claimed copyrighted, I immediately removed the material as requested with apologies. A DMCA complaint was not needed. I am happy to comply if I am in the wrong. This was not one of those cases.
The strong-arm process by the complainant and the hosting company was disrespectful and revealed their lack of integrity. I told the web host in no uncertain terms that I would be seeking another provider.
From this background, clicking on the links, you can see that the complainant might potentially be hurt by this unrelated news event coming up in Google search results. I have no control or influence over that. The fact that psychics get busted all the time (happily, more so recently) for fraudulent activity has zero to do with me. I advise you, reader, to use the obvious clues in this piece to locate the complainant’s web site and have a look at her business yourself. You may have to pick your jaw up off the floor. The claim she made about my site was nothing compared to the incredible claims she makes for herself.
Once you’ve digested the story here, you will see that there is no point in me contesting the DMCA notice even though I did nothing wrong. I do not need the material restored because it was never there to begin with. DMCA ought to be used for meaningful theft of intellectual property. Mistakes can be rectified easily but this is neither a mistake nor a theft. I believe this person SHOULD face charges for false claims that waste everyone’s time but this is such small potatoes and is nothing against me personally that I can’t bring myself to spend the time. Therefore, I hope that my documentation of this may help others and show the web hosts they do have some responsibility to their paying customers.
Thanks to those of you who followed my plight last evening and offered to mirror the site or supply help with a legal battle. I do have a lawyer at hand but I doubt this rises to that level (when the issue at play is so obvious and silly).
But, this incident, as I said, does spur me to seek out better hosting options from a site that will not hang me out to dry in a New York minute. Also, the rush of hits from a piece caused the servers to go out multiple times on Thursday as well. That is not acceptable. Due to our high server loads, we must now pay an amount that is more than trivial. While we have recouped immediate costs thanks to our supporters in the past, this new configuration will require about three times the cost. On the bright side, this means that DN is WORKING. People are visiting the site. We are being noticed!
Please note that DN is run as part of a business in order to comply with tax laws. I will not make a profit from this site this year, not even a few bucks, considering my input costs. The two of us that run the site every day do not get paid for the hours spent researching, writing and maintaining the site. It’s completely voluntary.
Therefore, I ask that if you value the site, you would please pledge at least $5 a month as a subscriber to cover reoccurring costs of the web site or make a one-time contribution that we can use continue the site, including fees for legal counsel as needed. Reader support also helps me on days when I want to throw my hands up in the air and say it’s not worth the hassle. If you wish to pay with a method other than paypal, please email editor (at) doubtfulnews.com
Thank you to all our existing supporters. I will be updating the supporters page soon to reflect those that have ever contributed even a $1 to Doubtful News.
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