Some times in the world of copyright and intellectual property you come across something so ridiculous, something so irrational, that you are just left gasping wondering “what were they thinking”.
I went through this when I read a recent story about CTV journalist David Akin who was notified that a video he posted to Googles YouTube site infringed on someoneâ€™s copyright. The posting, according to Akin, was a 30 second grainy video of Vimy Ridge he had taken with his digital still camera while on a recent trip to the World War I (edit for Metal Tim) memorial. The notice was served to Google from Holland & Hart LLP who according to a quick search is a construction law firm.
Now first off what is a construction law firm doing serving notices on of intellectual property? I do not understand what their particular interest is in this video. Secondly, this was a video of a public place – a piece of Canadian sovereign land – which was taken by the person who posted it online. There is no copyright being in infringed upon, except that of David Akin.
This is one of the many dangers of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), a key piece of copyright legislation that protects the rights of copyright owners in the USA. Currently the Government of Canada is considering DMCA like provisions for copyright reform, and if approved such legal actions could be legally enforceable in Canada. This is called the notice-takedown system where an apparent copyright owner serves notice to a hosting company like YouTube who subsequently take down the content.
However, current Canadian law advocates a notice-notice system where an accused copyright violator is given notice that the ISP (or other hosting company such as YouTube, blogger, etc) has been given notice of copyright infringement. It is then up to the user to act accordingly and remove the violating content or defend a false accusation directly against the accuser.
Since YouTube is US company with US servers the use of this aspect of the DMCA is hard to defend against. So where does that leave international users who post content legally but someone objects? In theory I could use the DMCA to take down material I object to based on a false claim of copyright infringement. The ability to do this is in how these provisions are written, there is no need for a judicial review to ascertain the infringement.
While it is not always apparent how copyright can effect the regular person on the street, but if this situation with David Akin is any indication there are far reaching consequences to such reforms. You, or I, could find ourselves wondering what happened to our blog entry, video, or photo we posted online one day.