13 months ago I had my first lecture at the University of Lyon III Jean Moulin on digital copyright issues. This week I returned to this great city to speak about the same topic and tas a part of the lecture to conduct a mini research with the help of my students.
My lecture includes questions like the interdependence of copyright law and technological innovation, web 2.0, library digitization, the orphan works dilemma, sampling of sound recordings, filesharing and the liability of intermediaries for online copyright infringements. One of the most fascinating topics from all of these is the so-called notice-and-take-down procedure. With the help of this procedure rightholders may request intermediaries to delete an allegedly infringing material from their networks or at least to block access to the content. Last year we had a really successful mini research on the notice-and-take-down practice of four different cyberlocker sites. (Sorry folks, I only have a Hungarian summary of the results of the research
.) Since that time the Mega Conspiracy
has vanished the Mega family (MegaUpload, MegaVideo etc.), therefore we had to look for other cyberlockers.
The key concept of the experiment was to form pairs of students. One of them should upload a file to a cyberlocker. The other should send a notice (a complaint) to this cyberlocker to take the material down. We should check, whether the cyberlocker complies with the request or not and what happens after that. It is similarly interesting whether the cyberlocker informs the allegedly infringing user about the reason of the takedown. This would definitely be not enough for a fair and funny research. I therefore decided to use a clearly non copyrighted photograph of my land in Hungary for this purpose. With the help of this we may check whether the takedown is an automated process or the abuse department may reasonable check the content of the file? (The presumption was that they will not do so.) And the research may be complicated by some other factors like giving a name for the photograph that is similar to a clearly copyrighted song or movie; we may encrypt the file to hide it from curious eyes etc. (We actually did not do that.)
The six cyberlocker sites we checked were 4shared, Hotfile, FileFactory, LimeLinx, Bayfiles and Mediafire. 4shared had a blanket abuse report service, which required the student to submit all the required information one-by-one. All the other complains were sent out by the students in simple e-mails. Interestingly, all of the cyberlocker sites responded to these e-mails by asking for some more clarification, especially a confirmation of the copyright ownership and that the complainant submits her notice in good faith etc. (All of these requirements are in accordance with the provisions of the US Copyright Act, actually the so-called Digital Millennium Copyright Act.) As soon as the students submitted the required extra information, the cyberlockers automatically inactivated the links that referred to the source material. This clearly shows that the intermediaries did not check the content of the allegedly infringing material. On the other hand we may conclude that no other cyberlocker is planning to run into the same huge trouble that MegaUpload is in now. They try to comply with all the notices.
For those, who are interested in the US version of notice-and-take-down procedure, read the following summary of that system here.