WordPress – Striking Back Against Censorship

by Sabrina I. Pacifici on November 29, 2013

“The mission of WordPress.com is to democratize publishing. We’re inspired every day by the ways creators use our platform to bring their voices to the world. Unfortunately, we also see many cases of censorship aimed at WordPress.com authors and users. One area where we’ve seen a number of problems is the censoring of criticism through abuse of copyright law. Two recent cases of abuse really caught our attention and made us think that we needed to take action to fight back on behalf of our users and everyone who believes in the internet’s promise for free expression. Censorship by DMCA –  A common form of censorship by copyright stems from improper use of legal creations called DMCA takedown notices. The DMCA stands for the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” which is a US federal law that created a system for protecting copyrights online. The DMCA system works pretty well, but has a few overlooked flaws that have made it too easy to abuse. Under the DMCA, companies, like Automattic, who publish user content cannot be held legally responsible for copyright infringement — so long as we follow a procedure to take down materials when we receive a notice from a copyright holder that something appearing on our platform allegedly infringes their copyrights. Every company that you use to share videos, pictures, and thoughts (from Google search to Facebook to Snapchat to WordPress.com) relies on the DMCA to balance free expression with copyright protection.  The DMCA system gives copyright holders a powerful and easy-to-use weapon: the unilateral right to issue a takedown notice that a website operator (like Automattic) must honor or risk legal liability. The system works so long as copyright owners use this power in good faith. But too often they don’t, and there should be clear legal consequences for those who choose to abuse the system. We receive hundreds of DMCA notices and try our best to review, identify, and push back on those we see as abusive. Our users have the right to challenge a DMCA complaint too, but doing so requires them to identify themselves and fill out a legally required form saying that they submit to being sued for copyright infringement in a place that may be far away. If they don’t, their content is taken down and could stay down forever. This tradeoff doesn’t work for the many anonymous bloggers that we host on WordPress.com, who speak out on sensitive issues like corporate or government corruption.”

Previous post:

Next post: