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SoundCloud Troll's DMCA Takedowns Demonstrates Weakness Of System

1DMCA takedown notices have received plenty of flack for their inaccuracy and rampant dissemination. Most recently trolls posing as rights holders have been able to take advantage of the DMCA's failure to closely look into any allegedly infringing material by getting them to issue takedown notices against completely legitimate content.

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Guest post by Timothy Geigner of TechDirt

Much has been written at this point about the problems with various "notice and takedown" policies, including in the DMCA. Much of the problems arise from the DMCA's requirement that service providers "expeditiously" remove infringing material upon notice, which naturally leads to platforms erring on the side of removal versus taking a hard -- and manual -- look at the material in question to see if it's really infringing. This results in all kinds of takedowns of speech that is not infringing, typically as a result of human error, a dispute over the actual ownership of rights, a lack of recognizing fair use, or, perhaps most often, an automated system for sending DMCAs simply screwing up.

But another weakness in the notice and takedown policy is in how much power it places in the hands of trolls and bad actors to simply fuck with people. This can be seen in action in the case of one SoundCloud troll getting all kinds of music taken down by pretending to be a rights holder.

Multiple bass music artists have alleged that their tracks have been removed from SoundCloud for wrongful copyright claims. Working under an account by the name "Dr Egg," an unknown user reportedly made copyright violation claims against multiple artists, which these artists are claiming resulting in the removals. In the SoundCloud platform, uploads can be taken down for copyright violations if SoundCloud receives an email making a claim against the track. A copyright violation occurs when someone uses a sample or part of a song that was already copyrighted by another artist or company. Currently, it only takes one claim to have a track removed and it may be reinstated if the claim is proven false.

According to reply emails from SoundCloud to the artists in question, "Dr Egg" used email addresses that pointed to Moonboy (moonboycreator@outlook.com) and Too Vain(toovain@outlook.com) to make these strikes. The user appears to have falsified Moonboy's (Jaime Madsen) signature and used his name on the copyright infringement claims. Moonboy made a video on Twitter to speak out against the fraud.

3That the policy can be weaponized for nihilistic mayhem in this way at all is a clear signal that changes need to be made. That this doesn't happen constantly is not a defense of the policy. Good internet policy is not that which can be easily subverted by impersonating another person, because that happens all the time on the internet. And, when coupled with platforms being incentivized only in the direction of quick takedown of art and speech, that causes a massive speech issue that would make the founding fathers go into a rage.

In this case, SoundCloud did manage to get the uploads in question restored.

A spokesperson on behalf of SoundCloud has responded to EDM.com with the following statement:

"Our takedown notification process is designed to respect copyright, and it is our policy to review all infringement claims per the guidelines outlined in our Help Center. Upon review, we have determined these copyright claims are not valid, and are happy to report we’ve reinstated all affected content."

Which is all well and good, but we still have a problem. And I'm pretty sure the impetus for that problem can be found in the very first line of SoundCloud's statement: "Our takedown notification process is designed to respect copyright...". You may notice that there is no mention of speech and art in the statement at all. This is, again, because all of the incentives in the DMCA's notice and takedown provisions push platforms to favor copyright over art -- which is anathema to the principles of free speech.

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