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2012-10-08 📌 First DMCA notice received, information leakage and staying safe online

Tags 🏷 All 🏷 Tech 🏷 Personal

So I got an email a few days ago purporting to represent the copyright holders of a short roleplay exercise. Although the email didn't really give much by way of evidence for the claim, googling the first sentence of the exercise established that it was in fact substantively the same document being referred to and not just someone prepared to perjure themselves on the basis of a filename.

It's a piece that's been widely used in education (particularly TEFL/ESOL situations) for decades. Someone must have circulated it during our PGCE year, at which time attributions weren't the kind of thing that could usually be easily established online (either by citations or by entire books containing a piece being posted illicitly.) The search also suggested that whoever it was gave it to me probably got it from an early edition of The Practice of English Language Teaching by Jeremy Harmer, where it's included as Desert Dilemma and only credited by the author in the chapter endnotes with "I have never been able to trace the source of this activity which was used by teachers at the Instituto Anglo Mexicano de Cultura in Guadalajara." In fairness to him, it was 1991 when the first edition was published and even less simple to look these kind of things up.

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is an American law that includes a provision basically granting sites some protection regardings things that are posted provided that infringing material is removed on request. It's been widely abused to silence free speech and fair use of extracts of copyright material, but by doing so those using it potentially run foul of the part that states notices must include "[a] statement that the information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed." Although the DMCA doesn't a direct equivalent in UK law, there are roughly analogous pieces of legislation such as the Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 2003 — and more to the point, whilst I've no great respect for the concept of intellectual property where people aren't profiting by unauthorised use, believe in rewarding creators but feel that that the world would be much improved if maximum copyright terms were dialed back to something like the 14 + 14 years granted by the 1790 act, it's impolite to put online more than brief excerpts of things that turn out to be actively being sold.

The DMCA also requires that notices include "[a] physical or electronic signature of a person authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed." This one did, and was actually the first thing I searched for, since the company sounded like an American conglomerate trying its luck based on automated crawler results. All I can say it that it might be best to leave the task of sending DMCA notices to someone in the company legal team with a more generic name, and not someone whose history, hi-res photo and home address / phone number appear to be online.

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