Over the past few years, transparency reports have become more and more common. Many big Internet companies publish them on an annual basis to keep the public informed about requests for user data or content takedowns.
One of the largest archives is maintained at Lumen Database and contains millions of DMCA notices received by companies including Google, Twitter, WordPress and Reddit.
Typically these notices contain the name of the complainant, the title of the content, the URLs where it can be found, and other non-sensitive information. Nevertheless, their publication is still unpopular with some.
In 2014, when Lumen was known as Chilling Effects, the archive was described as “repugnant” by then Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars.
“[T]he site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 [of the DMCA] as proponents of censorship,” she said.
While Lumen insists that is not the case, the project still has its enemies. Thanks to the transparency it brings, the work of anti-piracy outfits is made more public. This is an irritant to some, a notion that was made clear this week when US-based Remove Your Media took to Twitter to announce a new project.
As the tweet shows, Remove Your Media has launched its own transparency report which details the counter-notices filed by people it has filed DMCA notices against.
However, while Lumen Database goes to some lengths to protect the personal details (company names aside) of the people who send DMCA notices, Remove Your Media offers no such courtesy.
As can be seen from the screenshot above, the company publishes names, addresses, email address and even personal telephone/cellphone numbers of counter-notice senders. Given the tone of the tweet directed towards Lumen (transparency “works both ways now”), it seems reasonable to presume this is a deliberately provocative move.
What’s more, in practical terms the report is hopeless. The counter-notices published so far don’t contain any information that might allow the public to understand the complaints or whether they’re justified. It’s simply a list of names and other personal details plus a link to the copyright holder involved, no content details are provided.
TorrentFreak contacted Remove Your Media for comment on the aims of the just-launched database but received no response. However, some of those targeted by the company were happy to contribute.
“I run a website called fanart.tv which is community of fans submitting artwork for their favorite media,” site operator ‘Kode’ told TF.
“We are in effect offering free promotion for artists / tv shows / movies and making them look as good as possible.”
Kode told us that he believes the original complaint that triggered the counter-notice might be related to one of three YouTube videos that are already more than four years old.
“To be honest, it’s all a bit confusing as I only very vaguely remember submitting a YouTube counter-notice, and i’m pretty sure it wasn’t even this year. I’m trying to find out where I would see the details of it.”
Strangely, in correspondence with FanArt.tv around a year ago, Remove Your Media promised to whitelist the site from takedowns after acknowledging that there was no issue with its activities. Why the company has chosen to go back on its word now is a mystery.
But while Kode took his personal contact details being outed somewhat in his stride, others were not so relaxed.
“What the hell??? I never gave permission for this, and I doubt anyone else did either. This is illegal. I’ve reported the blog,” another told TF.
“I really don’t know [what this is about]. I have a YouTube account where I used to make [anime videos] years ago but there is no action against them. My account is fine. I don’t recognise the name [Remove Your Media]. As far as I’m concerned it’s BS. And even if they are taking action, my details should not have been published.”
TF is aware that Remove Your Media adopted an aggressive stance against people who sent false DMCA counter-notices in the past, so this move isn’t a complete surprise.
However, if the aim of the report really is transparency, the company should consider publishing its original DMCA complaint alongside a lightly redacted counter-notice. That will allow people to evaluate the credibility (or otherwise) of both claims.