A tweet from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) that complained about an abusive DMCA takedown request has itself been hit with a DMCA takedown request. The EFF notes that the tweet in question linked to a TorrentFreak article about a number of leaked TV shows. A tweet promoting the article was later the subject of a Twitter takedown request even though the article was a clear example of fair use.
The TorrentFreak article that started the string of copyright strikes was published on April 8th, and reported that several shows including the Starz releases American Gods and The Spanish Princess had leaked online prior to broadcast. The source of the leak appeared to be so-called “screener” copies of the shows, which are distributed prior to broadcast for preview purposes.
The article did not link to sites where the pirated copies were available, did not mention the names of these pirate sites, and used three screenshots to show the watermarks that indicated these video files had been distributed as screeners. In spite of this, TorrentFreak later reported that a tweet promoting the article was hit with a DMCA takedown notice from Starz, which claimed that it used “images of the unreleased episodes” and “information about their illegal availability.”
The takedown requests are just two of the roughly ten thousand copyright notices that Twitter receives each month, but they’re an egregious example of how the system is open to abuse. Not only are the requests’ claims that the article links to illegal content factually incorrect, but the screenshots used are clearly providing supporting evidence for the news story by showing the watermarks present in the video files. It’s journalism about piracy, not piracy itself.
Or, as the EFF put it, “Reporting about copyright infringement is not infringement.”
The EFF says it has filed a counterclaim in response to the takedown notice, and adds that “Starz should withdraw its takedown and refrain from harassing journalists in the future.”