Anti-gay group Straight Pride UK is abusing the DMCA takedown process to censor work by a journalist. No surprise there — the DMCA is twisted for all kinds of dumb purposes. The inexplicable part? The hate group filed a takedown on… its own press release. How dare you say that we said the words that we wrote in a press release.
Straight Pride UK is an activist group, which believes that straight people are a marginalised population in society that needs to empower itself. Freelance journalist Oliver Hotham contacted the group asking a few questions about their beliefs. According the Hotham, the group’s response demonstrated a less-than-proficient understanding of public relations:
About a week later they responded with an attached document with the title “press release”. I went through the questions, corrected the horrendous grammar, and organised it so it coherently answered the questions I’d posed. I also noted that two rather pointed questions I’d asked, regarding the problem of the bullying of LGBTI youth and the nature of other “pride” movements, had not been answered. I sent them an email about this, saying that I’d give them the opportunity to respond but, if they didn’t, I’d “make it clear in the article” that they avoided the questions. They didn’t get back to me for 2 days, which I thought ample time to write two sentences.
So he published their silly words. He’d identified himself as a journalist and they responded with a document titled “press release” — that should have been good enough. To Hotham’s surprise, the group got in touch, claimed copyright over the responses they had sent to him, and demanded that he take the embarrassing foolishness down. That’s pretty ballsy, but ballsier still is that Straight Pride UK sent a DMCA takedown notice to WordPress. And sadly WordPress took Hotham’s complied and removed the work.
Now, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s intellectual property provisions, platforms are compelled to just take content down when asked to do so. They can then review the takedowns if they’re challenged. It’s a system designed to protect publishers — and ordinary citizens — from lawsuits, by giving them the ability to take down content which infringes on other people’s intellectual property.
DMCA is a smart law in a lot of ways, but it’s also frequently abused by those who would like to censor other people’s speech. This is one of those cases. For those of you who don’t know, let’s be perfectly clear: If a journalist identifies himself as such and then you say a bunch of idiocy to him, it’s publishable. Even if it’s embarrassing. Straight Pride UK is merely using the law to manipulate WordPress into taking down speech. As a student without a lot of money — or a big publication supporting him — Hotham is basically powerless to fight the decision