This past Friday I received a DMCA takedown notice regarding my Erik Satie album, despite the fact that the music itself is public domain, I am the only performer on the record, and I have copyrights on the recordings and artwork (in addition to all my recordings and artwork, where applicable).
The notice was fraudulent, and should have been obvious since the person who filed it included offensive language and slur words in the attached message, butchered the English language with nearly every word misspelled and without any sentence structure at all, and the "company" that filed the DMCA does not exist.
The business in question was listed as "MillsApparatus World Entertainment, Ltd.", a business that has no address or PO Box, no associated legal paperwork such as tax returns, no phone number, no email, no website, no social media presence, etc. It's imaginary, plain and simple. The user who issued the takedown is a troll who used this semi-official but mostly-BS sounding name to abuse the DMCA system in order to harass, humiliate, or otherwise cause problems for myself and my business.
After a lot of issues that involved scanning and emailing copies of my copyright paperwork to prove I am the owner of the recordings, the record was reissued and the IP address of the troll was banned from accessing this site, and is on record as a known abuser on any store I associate with now so that any future filings that are connected to that address or that moniker will be automatically discarded.
This was the issue that resulted in a blackout on my MP3 store over the past five days or so, and it brings up a good point about the abuses of the DMCA system. While being able to protect content creators from unlicensed usage and profits by another person is inherently a good thing, there are too many issues with the current model for DMCA takedowns. This is an issue that Jim Sterling, a well known game critic, has dealt with often, usually at the hands of developers of subpar games that can't handle criticism.
In the above case, Sterling's use of the creator's video was covered and protected under Fair Use laws as he was providing criticism or commentary on top of it, thus adding his own content (no different from a film critic using clips from an upcoming movie to highlight his or her points and better relate the criticism, either positive or negative, to the audience).
In my case, we can see just how broken the DMCA system truly is because first, it was all content that I own and have proof of copyright to, second, the takedown was done as a form of harassment from a user that had no connection to the product in any way, shape or form and third, it shows that the reliance on copyright management via algorithms is not efficient, is easily manipulated and provides very little, if any, reliable and fast dispute system for the creator who has been flagged. The latter is an issue that most people with a YouTube account know all too well.
Because filing a DMCA takedown is so easy to do, many people, especially trolls, like to implement notices in order to harass and harm other users that they disagree with or simply do not like. They utilize a system that is meant to protect content creators to bully competitors or other selected targets by having their own work temporarily taken down and forcing the users to perform various tricks for the websites they're affiliated with just for laughs or for petty revenge. This gives way to swaths of original material being labelled as infringing on copyright with little to no evidence to backup the claim until the affected users file a dispute or contact the sites in question directly.
Most copyright infringement claims are managed through bots that simply flag content that matches an algorithm and that's it. The rest is up to the creator to handle and dispute as they are notified of the problem. I've had dozens of classical music recordings, all my performances and all public domain, flagged and taken down as soon as I've uploaded them to SoundCloud or have been flagged on YouTube simply because I'm not the only human being in the world to have played them! Last year, a Mozart recording I did on the piano was flagged as "matched third-party content" on YouTube because an orchestra had played an arrangement of the same piece. Any human could easily see that this was in error and would likely remove the flag as soon as they saw it, however, robots do not, and cannot make those decisions.
Combine this black and white robotic system with people who are all too willing to make false DMCA claims and you have a mess of trouble that often goes unpunished because the only thing the troll can do after a dispute is issued is take the matter to court, and that would compromise their anonymity and get them into a lot of legal trouble with regards to falsifying claims and harassment laws. And I've never seen one take their BS that far simply because it is BS.
However, it does not stop a particularly dedicated cyberbully from repeatedly filing claims, watch as the creator panics or has to play the game in response, then after the 14 day response period on the end of the filer has expired, laughs at nobody as things return to normal, only to file a second fake copyright notice under a new name just to make everyone angry again.
I'm all for protecting your own work, but I'm not going to go out of my way to issue frivolous DMCA takedowns unless another user is blatantly posting my recordings, images or films and taking credit for them. If you wanted to use my music in content of your own, that is legally a violation of copyright, but I'm different in this way:
If you use my music, or images or clips of footage, and you ask for my permission, you credit me and you link to this site, and your content that includes parts or wholes of my own is not monetized, go ahead. I'm not going to go out of my way to enforce takedowns unless I absolutely have to. And even if you do have monetized content, please allow for a way to share royalties and then you're all set. Simple. That's how this business has worked for a long time and this is what creates a network of artists rather than individuals in their ivory towers shunning everyone else around them and placing barriers around their own works rather than properly sharing them.
What needs to be done to prevent these sorts of issues in the future is: One, the person filing the claim has to have definitive proof (YouTube generally requires this) and sites cannot just take their word for it.
Two, hire more living humans to oversee the flagged content that the bots have collected and take the proper course of action whether that be removing the mark because the flag is wrong, or taking action against a user who is illegally uploading clips of South Park to the Internet without permission.
And third, take action against those who abuse the DMCA system either to monopolize content or make false claims, or those that will file claims for infringement of content that does not even exist on the sites they are filing a claim against.
Lying in order to have another user's content removed for laughs is fraud, and is punishable under the law. But the people who perpetrate it continue to get away and continue to do what they do simply because the Internet has no way of enforcing the laws of the "real world" as easily as the streets can without risking the freedoms that the Web provides.
I have repaired the damage done by this troll, but there are many other artists out there suffering because of this sort of escapade and far too many more will end up quitting completely because they can't deal with the countless, harassing takedowns issued fraudulently against them just so a scumbag with no life can smirk for a couple seconds.