This is more a post about my personal thoughts on the matter as opposed to the facts of the case, just so you’re aware. As you may remember (or not) I posted somewhere… *rummage, rustle* Oh, ew… I thought I threw that out. *paper flipping* Ah, here we go. Yes, right here I posted my thoughts on copyright and why one should file.
I still think filing for copyright is a good idea, like an insurance policy on your car. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of people don’t use it much, but having it can make life easier when someone decides to rear-end you.
One of the groups wherein I lurk recently sent out this link as a “Hey, ya’ll should check this out” in response to someone receiving a DMCA take-down for their work from Amazon. To summarize, Becca Mills of The Active Voice blog (and author of Nolander) had a scary encounter with someone using DMCA as a malicious tool against her original work. The result was that her work was taken down by the retailer with little to no initial investigation on their part.
Submitting evidence of copyright to Amazon apparently didn’t do much to work this issue.
In the long run, she had to do some sniffing around on her own and submit the results of her findings, hope things got upchanneled and wait for a resolution. Things were resolved and she has moved on, a little warier and a little wiser (and hopefully a lot less of a nervous wreck than I would be).
Someone else on the selfpublish yahoogroup on which I lurk has had their book taken down as the result of a DMCA filed with Amazon. I can’t speak to whether or not this is a malicious attack or someone has a real issue with the work in question, because I honestly don’t know, but I assume that it’s a malicious attack because the author on the group is asking for attorney recommendations, amongst other issues.
I’ll be honest – it never occurred to me that a DMCA would be used in a malicious fashion. I consider myself a skeptic – if someone can abuse the system, they will and they won’t give a damn who they hurt in the process. Some people are just jerks. I know this as a fact.
This said, I’m continuously … I won’t say “surprised,” because every time I read an article exposing a jerk for working a system for less than honest means, I tend to think “It figures” rather than “What the hell?”
I’ll go with “saddened” or even “irritated.” Despite being a skeptic and a pessimist, I still keep thinking, “People will do the right thing.” Then I turn around and read more evidence of jerks. It’s kind of a vicious cycle of dashed hopes and negative expectations being fulfilled, only to begin again the next morning.
It worries me to see how this is going to play out. Are spurious and unfounded DMCA’s going to be the next level of trolling a book or author? If so, it’s a disturbing shift in the audience writers hope to entertain.
Are retailers like Amazon going to try and be proactive about how they treat a DMCA or are they going to continue with their hands-off approach as Becca Mills discovered? To be fair, Amazon would be opening a huge can of worms in the legal arena if they do choose to be more proactive.
Are we seeing the birth of a new scam preying upon the self-published? Does the DMCA need to be re-tooled to address these issues? Can it be re-tooled? Its a US legal code, not a global one, and the DMCA in Becca Mills case may have been sourced from India. I’m not saying it definitely was, but if you read Becca Mills’ experience, it sounds an awful lot like a situation 10-15 years ago when medical records were being sent overseas for transcription and resulted in an increase in identity theft and blackmail. From overseas.
And nothing could be done about it.
I think the enactment of HIPPA stopped most sending of patient data overseas, but I could be wrong about that. As it is now, if someone steals your medical identity to get prescriptions, a lot of places will lock down your medical records – not even you can look at your own records, because that would be compromising someone else’s health record, even though they stole your record in the first place. In some cases you have to go through a bunch of legal hoops and spend a butt-load of money to get access to your records when you discover you’ve been a victim like that. Reading Becca Mills adventures about DMCA abuse and trying to work with Amazon reminded me a lot of this particular ridiculousness as well.
I have no answers. Attorneys at the UN level don’t have any answers for knock-off technology being illegally mass produced in trade-partner countries without consequence. Apple and Microsoft may be irritating, but they are big damn names to just shrug at when they demand answers, and it tells you a lot about what can be done about a situation like this:
I know I find it scary. I constantly second guess my decision to even venture down this path, tiptoeing the whole way, so I’m already insecure and convinced the sky will fall the moment I push the big red publish button. Something like this is scary enough to make me pause (yet again) and say to myself (yet again) “Is this path I’m on towards self-publishing really worth it? Is the angst and the worry and the bullshit I know I will encounter day in and out really worth pushing out a story or three *cough*dozen*coughcough*
I know my life would be a damn sight easier if I said “no,” but that would make me a liar.
And I couldn’t live with myself if I did that.