WordPress Goes After Dubious DMCA Takedown Notices

dmca logoAccording to TorrentFreak and few other sites we found, WordPress is targeting individuals and companies who “abuse the DMCA takedown process to censor perfectly legal content.” So, next time you lodge a complaint related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act or DMCA, beware that a false accusation could get you in hot water.

TorrentFreak relayed an incident that took place last November involving Oliver Hotham, who published an article called “Straight Pride UK” and reportedly used information obtained from a press release. Yes, a press release. You know, those 400- to 500-word blasts sent out so that information about an event, promotion, person, or company can be relayed around the globe.

We digress. WordPress received a takedown notice from “the organization’s press officer Nick Steiner.”

WordPress and Hotham struck back after the article was taken down, filing a lawsuit. According to WordPress’ attorney, “The information in the press release that Hotham published on his blog did not infringe any copyright because Hotham had permission to publish it. It was a press release, which by its very nature conveys the intent to ‘release’ information to the ‘press.'”

Hotham has since published an article called “The Sordid Tale of How I Was Censored By Straight Pride UK” and included the communication he claims Steiner sent him. Steiner wrote, “It has been brought to my attention that you have published the e-mail that I sent you to, you did not state this in your email request nor you did have consent to do this. I therefore request that you take down the article that you have placed on your blog. You have 7 days in which to do this; failing this, I shall submit a DMCA to WordPress to have it removed.”

Hotham claimed he received a press release and, in response, asked questions of Steiner, referencing the fact that he was a journalist. He explained that WordPress eventually took down his article: “WordPress caved to them without question, removing my article and telling me if I tried to publish it again I’d be suspended, but that I could challenge the takedown of my article.”

Straight Pride UK allegedly followed up the DMCA request by asking Hotham to “remove all references to Straight Pride UK, the Straight Forward Project, along with images and links from [his] blog.”

WordPress claimed that its reputation was at stake and, as we’ve seen from Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg, the company has fairly ambitious growth plans. Therefore, keeping its reputation as a platform for users to express their ideas without fear of persecution is of paramount importance.

oliver hothamTo that end, WordPress responded in its lawsuit, “Steiner did not do this to protect any legitimate intellectual property interest, but in an attempt to censor Hotham’s lawful expression critical of Straight Pride UK. He forced WordPress to delete perfectly lawful content from its website. As a result, WordPress has suffered damage to its reputation.”

WordPress and Hotham asked for $10,000 in damages and a little over $14,000 in legal fees, according to TorrentFreak.

Comments from readers on the “Sordid Tale” article were in part focused on the censorship aspects of the case, with one poster writing, “Censorship, at any level, is dangerous; once it gains a foothold, there is no controlling its path or reach. There are many things published that I abhor from people I would prefer to see disappear… but I believe their right to free speech is imperative.”

A poster on TorrentFreak hailed WordPress and its efforts to participate in the lawsuit, which was filed in California: “Bravo, WordPress! Have always loved this company. Nice to see it’s standing up for what’s right and fighting DMCA abuse.”

We suppose only time will tell what the full story was and who’s “right” in this case.