Frivolous DMCA takedown notices, the latest technique in online pissing matches.

One of the more frequently visited, solo-bloggers about Japan-side expat issues, debito.org, is offline this morning. [Update: The site is back. No more 404 error.]

Out of curiosity, I asked Debito through Facebook what is going on. He tells me that someone named Lance Braman [or someone purporting to be Lance, right?] filed a DMCA complaint with the firm that hosts Debito’s site. [Update 10/8/11: Debito has updated this to make clear that the only connection to Braman is that the DMCA letter was filed regarding Braman’s writings.] The claim is that, since Braman had written two letters-to-the-editor to the Japan Times, and the Japan Times published those letters, that Braman has a copyright claim to those publicly disseminated letters. (This is to say, that he did not give over his copyright rights to Japan Times when he submitted his opinion pieces for publication.)

I am not a DMCA expert–although I am ahead of most lawyers–but the argument sounds totally frivolous. The Japan Times might have a claim, but Braman does not.

To me, this looks like a hoax perpetrated by the Tepido Twelve–as Braman was part of that group until he stopped posting there suddenly a few months ago.

My own view about takedown notices is that you fight them all the way through. You respond to them, and then when the other side does not go forward with their frivolous copyright claim, make sure they are stuck for their action–if the point isn’t clear by then. Almost always, it is.

As someone who was an early adopter on blogging technology, I learned early that the Law hasn’t come as rapidly to internet things as it should. I feel that, inevitably, there will be online, summary, courts for these various disputes that turn up on the net. We don’t need the big corporations like Google or Microsoft determining what the rules will be. We need recognized law—the court system. The trouble is, the court system is underfunded and jam-packed with so-called “real world” matters.

Remember, this critique goes to the right to say, not endorsement of whatever content is said. Both the Debito and Tepido sites have material that I don’t agree 100% with. Where each side is not doing something outside of what the boundaries of free speech would permit, I defend the people’s right to say it.

The idea that someone is going to use frivolous DMCA takedown notices to silence one faction or the other is a situation that we all should pay attention to; and, frankly, not tolerate.

[Update 10/6/11: Ah, debito is back.]