New(ish) Report on 512 Takedown Notices

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY AND FREE SPEECH IN THE ONLINE WORLD: How Educational Institutions and Other Online Service Providers Are Coping with Cease and Desist Letters and Takedown Notices by Laura Quilter and Marjorie Heins

You may recall that Laura Quilter co-wrote an excellent 2005 study on 512 takedown notices. This time, she’s cowritten an ethnographic-style study of how takedown notice recipients handle the notices. The report does an excellent job explaining how copyright owners are, in essence, spamming service providers with low-merit takedown notices, which in turn imposes significant investigation and remediation costs on service providers to assess the merit of the notice and act on it. Naturally, for many service providers, the lowest-cost path is not to do individualized investigations but to treat a takedown notice as a presumptive veto of the content.

We all know that the 512 takedown notices was designed to allocate remediation costs between content owners and service providers, but the spammy nature of the content owner’s takedown notices has reduced their costs by shifting more of the costs to the service provider. This situation was supposed to be remedied by 512(f), but after the Ninth Circuit Rossi case, 512(f) doesn’t have much punch, so it has done little to curb the takedown spamming by content owners. This situation may need further legislative correction to revitalize 512(f) or to otherwise create some disincentive to reduce takedown spam.

The report’s five main findings:

1) “large educational institutions and other service providers are swamped by notices about peer-to-peer filesharing (“P2P”) and “abuse” complaints relating to spam, viruses, phishing, and network security,” so all notices are processed on a mass-volume and lowest-common-denominator basis.

2) “the flood of P2P notices places significant burdens on service providers”

3) “when in doubt…institutions tend to take a much more restrictive stance than is warranted by the law.”

4) “this restrictive stance is driven in part by the confusing nature of the law and the lack of solid information and model policies for service providers.”

5) “the situation for users is grim.”

Important reading.

HT: EFF Deep Links.