Monday, July 9, 2012

The Curio affair of the DMCA in the night time

This rather non-sensational item from NWN hides behind it a rather alarming imbroglio between two SL content creators; I can understand why Mr Au is keeping his coverage restrained and non-judgmental, since the dispute has now escalated to the point where real lawyers - not just Internet "lawyers" - are getting involved.  Still, following up on the links leads one into as juicy a tale of allegations and cliques and counter-allegations as one might wish to read in the proverbial month of Sundays.  (I am, myself, convinced enough that I'll be dropping by Gala Phoenix's fundraiser to spend some Lindens for the cause.)

The main problem, it seems to me, is that whatever's happened, someone has been abusing the DMCA takedown process, by reporting as a copyright infringement content which they must know darn well isn't infringing.  To me, this highlights an essential weakness in the whole process.  It's all very well having a fast and effective method of taking down infringing content (I am not going to use the contentious word "stolen" here, as the issues are already quite muddy enough without distorting the meaning of another word), but the problem is the same as with the ready availability of firearms in some cultures - the bad guys get to have them too. In this case, it is quite clear that an innocent creator has been shot with the DMCA "gun" by a plagiarist trying to cover themselves with a bogus counter-accusation.  Undoubtedly, the truth will come out in the end... and the RL lawyers will get a nice five-figure sum out of it, and everyone else is going to come out a loser.

This is surely not fair, and I'm hoping something can be done about it.  It seems to me that there need to be serious consequences, somewhere, for an abuse of the DMCA takedown process - as things stand, an infringer can sling out a counter-claim and gum up a legitimate complainer's business, and it's not easy to see where they have anything to lose by doing that.  Possibly, the RL courts will impose some sort of additional penalty - or possibly not; who knows, with many courts in many nations, not all of them up to the standards we in the developed world expect?  But, it seems to me, abuse of DMCA needs to be something taken seriously in SL, too.  I hope this is something LL is thinking about.

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