Fair Use and Copyright Abuse: WordPress Dismisses Abusive DMCA Complaint About My Story on DMCA Abuse

— Automattic, the Californian tech company behind blogging platform WordPress, has dismissed a copyright complaint about this blog by conservative writer Michael Moates, citing fair use protections

In February, I published a story about frivolous attempts to suppress sexual harassment claims against conservative writer Michael Moates.

As I wrote in that story, since October someone has been filing copyright complaints in Moates’ name requesting that Google delist a bunch of news articles, including pieces by Right Wing Watch and Raw Story, that reported on lewd and inappropriate messages he allegedly sent to three young women, including two underage girls (click here to read more about the allegations).

Late last month, Automattic received a brand new copyright complaint, sent from Moates’ personal e-mail address, targeting my story and requesting the removal of a number of photos and images (two of which were embedded from other sites), including a screenshot of a Facebook exchange in which he appeared to proposition sexual/domestic assault victims’ advocate Kylie Thomas to go on a date with him.

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In an e-mail yesterday, Automattic, whose free speech bonafides include fighting copyright abuse by suing on behalf of its users and even tolerating a few less-than-flattering posts by this blog (see: Arif Trumps WordPress), said it has decided not to comply with the complaint, citing fair use protections.

Here’s Automattic’s e-mail, including Moates’ complaint, in full:

Sal P. (Automattic)
May 2, 23:10 UTC

Hello,

We have received a DMCA notice for material published on your WordPress.com site.

Normally this would mean that we’d have to disable access to the material. However, because we believe that this instance falls under fair use protections, we will not be removing it at this time.

Section 107 of the US Copyright Act identifies various purposes for which the reproduction of a particular work may be considered fair, such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research. You can learn more about that here:

Copyright and Fair Use
Copyright Law of the United States

While we believe that your use of the material is protected (we have fought for our users in similar cases in the past – see “WordPress wins against ‘straight pride’ group in copyright censorship case”), please keep in mind that the complainant may choose to continue to pursue this matter, perhaps directly with you. If you would prefer, you are still able to delete the content from your site yourself.

The notice we received from the complainant follows.

— BEGIN NOTICE —

First name: Michael
Last name: Moates
Company name:
Address: [Redacted]
City: [Redacted]
State/Region/Province: [Redacted]
ZIP: [Redacted]
Country: United States (US)
Phone number: [Redacted]
Email address: michael.moates@thenarrativetimes.org

Copyright holder: Michael Moates

Location of unauthorized material:
shootingthemessenger.blog/tag/michael-moates/
shootingthemessenger.files.wordpress.com/2019/02/moates.kylie_..jpg

Location of original materials:
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=815500755265835&set=piaarp.100004177545170&type=3&theater
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=965443223604920&set=a.360042224145026&type=3&theater

Description of original materials:
See embeded copyright images on page:

Moates in front of White House
Moates and Sean Hannity

See photos in story

Photo of Moates attached to Facebook message

I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.
I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.
I acknowledge that a copy of this infringement notice and any correspondence related to it, including any contact information I provided above (address, telephone number, and email address), will be forwarded to the user who uploaded the content at issue. I also acknowledge that a note may be placed on the site in question detailing the name of the copyright owner who submitted the takedown notice.

Digital signature: Michael Moates
Signed on: 2019-04-27 09:21:23

— END NOTICE —

Sal P. | Community Guardian | WordPress.com

Bogus Copyright Complaints Sought to Suppress Michael Moates Sexual Harassment Claims

— At least three young women have accused conservative writer Michael Moates of sending sexually suggestive messages

Multiple bogus copyright complaints sought to suppress sexual harassment claims made last year against conservative writer and D.C. Chronicle founder Michael Moates.

The complaints, sent in Moates’ name over a five-month period starting October, requested that Google delist six news articles concerning Moates’ alleged misconduct towards three young women, including two underage girls.

Michael Moates (source)

The three women, Purity Thomas (16), Hadassah Cohen (17), and Kylie Thomas (20), assert that Moates sent them inappropriate and sexually suggestive messages during discussions online and over text message. The claims, including that Moates told Cohen that she “couldn’t possibly be telling the truth that [she] was a proud virgin…because [she] was too gorgeous for that,” were first reported in October by Right Wing Watch, a liberal watchdog site of conservative media.

According to statements and screenshots posted online, Moates texted Purity Thomas—then 15—that she was a “beautiful crazy chick.”

“This is Michael, correct?” Thomas asked in reply.

“Yes lol,” Moates wrote back. “Sorry I made a mistake lol”

Thomas, currently the executive director of pro-life women’s group reLOVE, had reached out to Moates to discuss her experience of being physically assaulted during a protest. But after talking to him, “[she] thought, ‘You’re not coming anywhere near my team,’” Thomas told Right Wing Watch.

source

In another exchange that allegedly took place over Facebook, Moates propositioned Kylie Thomas, an advocate for sexual and domestic assault survivors, to go on a date with him.

“Maybe I can get you drinking if I can get that date,” Moates suggested.

“Sounds bad,” Thomas replied. “Sounds like a reason mothers give daughters pepper spray.”

“LOL I would never take advantage,” Moates wrote back. “lol more of hey your cute youve been drinking lets go to dinner haha.”

source

Shortly after the story was picked up by Raw Story and a number of other media outlets, someone sent Google three copyright complaints in Moates’ name requesting that the search engine remove the offending articles because they included Moates’ personal Facebook and Twitter photos. Last week, another three complaints were sent to Google, also in Moates’ name.

“The self-taken photograph with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity was taken from Facebook,” reads one of the complaints. “Photograph (selfie) taken with Tomi Lahren,” reads another.

source

U.S. copyright law stipulates that the publishing of copyrighted photos might be considered Fair Use if used in a journalistic context, as with the Right Wing Watch and Raw Story pieces.

“The fair use of a copyrighted work…for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting…is not an infringement of copyright,” Section 107 of the Copyright Act states.

In an e-mail, Techdirt reporter Tim Cushing said that the use of Moates’ photos was “clearly fair use.”

“Moates’ use of social media is a key aspect of this story, so the use of screenshots of his social media posts isn’t copyright infringement,” said Cushing. “At best, Moates should be contacting the sites directly and requesting they remove the photo. Targeting the entire URL is just an attempt to remove a critical article under the pretense of protecting his IP [Intellectual Property].”

Moates with Sean Hannity (source)

It remains unclear if Moates sent the complaints, as he didn’t reply to a request for comment. But in September, Moates told The Daily Beast reporter Lachlan Markay that he planned to file libel lawsuits against a number of conservative women who’d made sexual harassment claims against him. 

As of publication, Google has not delisted the targeted articles.

NBT Films: Debunked Again

— Techdirt reports my post about debunked YouTuber’s copyright complaint against fact-checking website Snopes

source

Via “Snopes Debunks Fake YouTube Video; Video’s Creator Responds With A Bogus DMCA Notice” by Tim Cushing, Techdirt, December 6, 2017:

from the pressing-the-shut-up-button dept

Nothing But the Truth Films (NBT) has a credibility problem. Oh, the irony, I would normally say, except for the fact NBT deals mostly with this sort of “truth.”

We present the black and white facts about the geopolitical climate which include Islam, Illuminati, Freemasonry, Cults and more. See how your freedoms are slowly eroding and spread the message with the help of our channel.

[…]

One popular video on NBT’s YouTube channel shows a supposed Islamic man angrily and bitterly decrying the religion after having his eyes opened by [NBT creator J.K. Sheindlin’s book]. But the video isn’t what it seems: it’s actually footage taken from somewhere else, dealing with an entirely different issue, but with NBT’s fabricated subtitles giving the impression Sheindlin’s book has unconverted another follower of Islam.

It made the internet rounds enough that Snopes picked it up and debunked it.

[…]

Having been caught out, Sheindlin did what any self-respecting truth-seeker huckster would do: he decided to get Google involved. The invaluable Dean Sterling first spotted the bogus DMCA notice:

Last month, the conspiracy channel filed a DMCA copyright complaint requesting that Google delist Evon’s article from its search results. That’s according to the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests.

Read the full article by clicking here.

Snopes: Nothing but the Truth

— Fact-checking website Snopes targeted by debunked conspiracy YouTuber J.K. Sheindlin in copyright delisting request

Sheindlin runs the popular YouTube channel Nothing But the Truth Films (NBT), which claims to “present the black and white facts about the geopolitical climate [including] Islam, Illuminati, Freemasonry, Cults and more.”

Last year, NBT uploaded a video purporting to show an “Arab guy” angrily renouncing his faith on live television:

Fact-checking website Snopes subsequently debunked the video. Via “‘Arab Guy’ Renounces Faith on Egyptian Television?” by Dan Evon, July 5, 2016:

While the video purports to tell the “black and white facts” about someone renouncing his faith because of Sheindlin’s book, the clip in reality does not capture an Arab’s reaction to a controversial book, nor does it capture that person renouncing his faith on live television. Sheindlin added fabricated captions to the video (while pledging to tell “nothing but the truth”) in order to generate buzz for his book The People vs Muhammad.

Apparently, NBT did not appreciate the fact-checking effort.

Last month, the conspiracy channel filed a DMCA copyright complaint requesting that Google delist Evon’s article from its search results. That’s according to the Lumen Database, which archives online takedown requests.

source

If you can’t read that it says:

The copyrighted work is a video that our company produced, and has been embedded on the following website without our permission. You can see the video embedded on the page, under the section ‘Origin’. We did not give any authorisation for the website ‘Snopes’ to use our video for their news. Therefore, the company Snopes has infringed our copyright.

As of publication, Google has not delisted the article.

Bad Fan Fiction

— Michael Jackson’s estate targets erotic fan fiction with series of copyright complaints

According to the Lumen Database, Jackson’s estate recently hired self-proclaimed “Web Sheriff,” British IP lawyer John Giacobbi, to scrub a blogger’s erotic fan fiction about the late singer.

John Giacobbi (source)

The targeted blog, MJ Fan Fictions, includes “semi-erotic adventures” about Jackson and the blog’s owner, Trinette Rani Johnson.

source

Here’s a particularly inspiring sample of Johnson’s work:

Daryl [Jackson’s character from the Bad video] was enjoying himself too much. He was off from school and his mother wasn’t home from work. His new girlfriend wasn’t home either. He had on his stereo to the sounds of Stevie Wonder. He had eaten dinner and was about to take a shower. He took his shirt off first revealing his taunt tan chest, perky little nipples, define muscles, and his outtie belly button.

If that does it for you, you can read more by clicking here.

Citing U.S. copyright law, Giacobbi has requested that Google delist Johnson’s blog because “the use of the copyrighted materials…is not authorised by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

The complaint is part of an ongoing series of legal efforts to purge Google’s blogosphere of Jackson fan erotica, described in a separate complaint as a subculture of “libellous innuendo” and “obscene and malicious falsehoods.”

Info-Warring (Part II)

— International Business Times files copyright complaint against conspiracy website InfoWars

In February, I blogged about a series of DMCA copyright complaints filed against U.S. conspiracy website InfoWars.

The complaints by pro-gun news website AmmoLand, Danish-run news website nsnbc international, plus a third accusation of content scraping by Cincinnati survivalist website On Point Preparedness, claimed that InfoWars republished their content without permission.

InfoWars founder Alex Jones (source)

Yesterday, BuzzFeed News broke the news that “InfoWars has republished more than 1,000 articles from RT without permission”:

Over the past three years, conspiracy site InfoWars has copied more than 1,000 articles produced by Russian state-sponsored broadcaster RT to its website — all without the permission of RT.

According to data from social sharing tracking website BuzzSumo, there were at least 1,014 RT articles republished on InfoWars since May of 2014. The articles appeared on InfoWars with a byline credit to RT, but a spokesperson for the Russian broadcaster told BuzzFeed News that InfoWars did not have permission to re-publish its content.

RT is not the only outlet InfoWars copied content from. A search on BuzzSumo shows there are articles copied from CNN, Sputnik, Breitbart, CNS News, the Blaze, CBC, BBC, Vice, The Guardian, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New York Post, LA Times, BuzzFeed, and others. RT’s articles, however, seem to be the most numerous.

Adding to that list is the International Business Times (recently rebranded Newsweek Media Group).

According to the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests, the business news publication recently sent Google a copyright complaint claiming that “InfoWars often [uses] our content without approval and incorrectly attribute canonical owership [sic] to themselves”:

source

According to BuzzFeed, InfoWars has not replied to multiple requests for comment.

The Ghost of Trump U.

— Google delists marketer’s analysis of Trump University sales letter after friend of deceased Donald Trump ghostwriter files copyright claim

Trump University, founded in 2004 by its presidential namesake, was an unaccredited real estate programme aimed at budding investors.

Before and after its closure in 2010, the New York-based programme faced repeated allegations of illegal business practices by state authorities, plus two federal lawsuits brought by former students who claimed they were defrauded out of thousands of dollars in tuition fees (in late 2016, Trump agreed to pay $25 million to settle the lawsuits).

source

Now Trump U. is back to haunt the archives of the Lumen Database, a website that collects and analyses online takedown requests.

Earlier this month, Lumen published multiple DMCA copyright complaints received by Google requesting that the search engine delist pages from Swiped.co, a self-described “community for marketers, copywriters & savvy business minds” founded in 2013 by New Jersey-based marketer Mike Schauer.

Swiped.co founder Mike Schauer (source)

The complaints were sent by Big Jason Henderson, founder of Las Vegas marketing company SMH Marketing, who requested that Google delist Schauer’s annotated analysis of a decade-old Trump U. sales letter by deceased Trump ghostwriter Scott “Mongo” Haines.

Henderson says he acquired the rights to Haines’ works shortly after Haines’ death in January.

Top right: Marketing consultant Big Jason Henderson (source)

Here’s one of three complaints Henderson sent Google:

source

If you can’t read that it says:

I am the copyright holder of “Shortcut Copywriting Secrets.” This course includes a text-based course (204 pages), a quickstart guide (27 pages), and two volumes of sales letters (336 pages). My rights to this work include text, sales letters, logos, and cover images. This sales letter from the course appear on the website swiped.co and subsequently appears in Google search results.

Search results for “Scott Haines” show that Google has delisted the page as a result of Henderson’s complaint:

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In an e-mail, Schauer said that he is saddened by the ordeal.

“I’m not trying to pass his work off as my own or sell it,” said Schauer. “I’m using it to educate and teach copywriting, while highlighting the man who wrote it.”

I asked Techdirt reporter Tim Cushing about the possible fair use components of Schauer’s post.

“I think it’s clearly fair use,” said Cushing. “In addition to [the fact that Schauer’s commentary alone should be enough to stake a credible fair use claim], it’s a marketing letter meant to be seen by as many potential customers as possible. It’s not as though publishing it somehow diminishes the market for Trump U. offerings – even if Trump U. were still a viable entity. This is marketing material, not an excerpt from the courses Trump U. was selling.”

Cushing added: “Misuse of the DMCA process only creates more commentary.”

Strangely enough, Henderson appears to agree. In an e-mail, he said he has no issue with the delisted page, and that he intended to target another page which he claims contains copyrighted material taken from Haines’ collection – a claim disputed by Schauer.

Here’s what Henderson wrote to me:

My wife’s been helping out and says she did not intend to put in a claim for the Trump U. letter.

I had told her to only look for Trump U. letters which were addressed to Scott which would indicate it was taken from Scott’s collection.

Might have been because it was also on a page that linked to another sales letter which was copyrighted by Scott and included in his collection.

So, I believe she is in communication with swiped.co and working something out because I have no issue with and would even be willing to provide some missing info about that Trump U. letter.

Henderson confirmed that he will ask Google to relist the disappeared pages, on the condition that Schauer agrees to include a link to Henderson’s website.

In the meantime, Schauer has filed a counter notification with Google.

Update, 7/11/2017: According to Schauer, Google has relisted his website.