This column by Quinn Norton offers a criticism of people and organizations that improperly use the notice and takedown system not to primarily protect their intellectual property, but rather to stifle free speech and bad publicity. Her contention is that using intellectual property law as a public relations vehicle in inherently inappropriate and not a proper use of the DMCA. The first example cited is the case of Diebold, the infamous maker of electronic voting machines, where internal memorandums acknowledging machine malfunction were leaked onto the internet, contradicting the public statements by the company. Instead of coming clean about the failures and admitting that it had originally mislead, the company tried to eradicate the documents from the web, attempting to cover up the evidence instead of confronting it. Using Section 512 of the DMCA, Diebold sent notice and takedown letters to all sources it could find that were hosting the documents. Similar anecdotes about Scientology, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and radio host Michael Savage all evidence the practice of using the DMCA to silence critics.
Norton’s column is important to my paper because of her simple and succinct conclusion that the takedown process is “a weak way to shut people up.” Her examples provide relatable, real-world examples about how free speech can be put down via notice and takedown, but what I take away from the article is her overriding message that a perversion of copyright is not an acceptable way to achieve an end. Her personal experience and perspective help me create a diversity of sources, and balances out some of the more numerically based evidence.