Chilling Effects is an information portal and compendium of cease-and-desist or DMCA “takedown” notices, submitted by the individuals who sent or received them. The site makes for an interesting read and contains thousands of angry letters from copyright holders, ordering material to be removed.
Would you know what to do if you received a takedown notice? Are you aware of how DMCA cease-and-desist orders can be counter-productive for copyright holders? Read on to find out more.
The Chilling Effects Website
At the forefront of the Chilling Effects movement are the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the self proclaimed defenders of freedom in the digital world. Along with the EFF are several prominent universities and law schools, including Harvard, Stanford and the George Washington School of Law.
Not only is Chilling Effects home to a searchable database of takedown notices, but also contains advice and information regarding specific copyright infractions and advice on what to do if you receive a cease-and-desist order yourself.
Above all, the website recommends that you send in a copy of the takedown notice, so that it can be added to the database, analysed and publicly displayed. There are also simplified, easy to understand explanations of individual areas, such as copyright, fan fiction and defamation.
Sending & Receiving Takedown Notices
The website is geared towards those who have received and those who have sent cease-and-desist orders, and has submission areas for both receiving and issuing a notice. If you have sent a takedown notice then you’ll be asked for your details, the recipient’s details and a copy of the notice itself.
On the other hand if you have received a notice yourself then the submission process is a little more complicated. First you must find a category for the complaint, of which there are many spanning topics like defamation, parody websites and patent infringement.
Next fill in your personal information and the senders details, and copy and paste the notice you received into the C&D Notice Body box. Hit Enter to send your report, and wait. Chilling Effects, its academic foundations and the law students who attend these institutions will then attempt to provide legal feedback regarding the notice you received.
Whilst there is no guarantee that your case in particular will receive a personal reply, your report may improve Chilling Effects in the long run:
“When you send us a cease and desist notice, we will categorize it and add it to the “chilling effects” database. The law school clinics will then review the general issues raised and add to the developing set of FAQs on the subject(s). Each letter or incident added to the database also helps describe the scope of the “chilling” problem: How much legitimate activity is being stopped by meritless threats, and who is sending ungrounded claims?”
Missing The Point?
If you do receive a notice it is often best not to challenge it at all. Once you have removed the content your website is no longer liable, and you should be in the clear. Fighting the case will often require legal representation, which is often far more costly for the individual than the multi-national claimant.
There has been widespread criticism of the DMCA, many claiming that takedown notices are overpowered and make it too easy for copyright owners to remove content that may or may not be infringing.
In March 2009 Google published statistics which confirmed that over half of all takedown notices received (57%) were sent by businesses targeting rivals. It also emerged that 37% of cease-and-desist orders were not valid copyright claims at all.
In a move that’s typically Google, the company have been sending the valid DMCA takedown notices they have received to Chilling Effects for inclusion in the database. As Google is a search giant, these notices often relate to search results and website listings within the Google database.
One such issuer of DMCA notices has been Microsoft, who regularly seem to get in touch with Google over copyright infringements, especially when it comes to the Windows operating system. When these full reports are published on Chilling Effects they include offending search terms and links to websites that house this content.
I’m not advocating piracy, but many of the copyright claims against Google relate to pirated software, and these reports are public once Chilling Effects get hold of them. These reports all contain the locations of suspected pirated materials, delivered by the claimants themselves.
This presents somewhat of a catch 22 situation. Many feel it is important to have a public record of these notices (sharing filed reports does not contravene the DMCA), but each successful takedown notice points to another bit of questionable copyright.
Chilling Effects is a fantastic resource, especially if you run a public website (such as forums or image boards) and are concerned about your responsibility over content. If you do ever receive a copyright infringement notice then submitting it to the website can not only help you, but also others who are browsing the site for guidance.
Have you encountered any DMCA brick walls? Takedown notices? Ever filed a complaint? Concerned about intellectual property rights? The MakeUseOf court is in session, take your place in the witness box below.