Atheist blogger Justin Vacula is in a bit of a quandary.
You see, Justin recently wrote a post about his dissention from Amy Davis Roth’s (SurlyAmy’s) position on anti-harassment policies at skeptical/atheist conventions. Whether or not you agree with either of them isn’t really the point of this post; I don’t know enough about the whole discussion to know what the situation is here. But that’s completely irrelevant.
The entire reason that I’m writing this is this simple: Justin received a DMCA complaint against his blog for (supposedly) violating SurlyAmy’s intellectual property rights. (FYI: the DMCA is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, an extremely heavy-handed US law passed back in 1998 that basically made American copyright law assume the guilt of the accused in any question of copyright law regarding digital media.)
There’s technically a law that makes it illegal to file a false DMCA complaint, but Blogger – the Google-owned blogging site where Justin’s blog is hosted – doesn’t even bother to check into the claims. They just outright remove the posts. (Well, I guess they just move the posts back to the not-publicly-visible ‘draft’ status so that the blog owners can remove the copyrighted content… but that’s not much better.)
Per Blogger’s policy, Justin is forced to remove the “infringing” content before he can re-post his original post, and if he doesn’t, he faces having his entire blog shut down. Never mind that the DMCA claim hasn’t even been validated yet; it’s enough that the claim was made. That’s enough to censor someone. It didn’t even have to actually be SurlyAmy herself; someone could make the claim with the assertion that they represented her, and voila, down goes Justin’s post.
There is so much wrong with a law that can get you censored without anyone actually having to demonstrate that you’ve infringed their copyright – let alone that they actually have the copyright in the first place. There’s even more wrong with a policy of forcing you to remove the “not proved, only accused” content before you can re-publish your post. All it takes to get an unpopular opinion removed from public view is a lie about a post containing copyrighted content. Google should honestly be ashamed of this.