‘Well Respected’ People Send DMCA Notices to Hide Their Mishaps

Opinion

The DMCA allows copyright holders to protect their work, by sending takedown requests to remove infringing material. However, some people appear to use this tool rather broadly. This includes several high profile people who presumably use the DMCA to hide their inconvenient pasts.

Most of us like well-respected people. They’ve usually worked hard to get where they are and have found some way to give back to society.

Unfortunately, even these people might have made a mistake or two in the past. And if those end up on the Internet, they’re hard to erase.

That doesn’t mean that you can’t try of course…

Recently, we stumbled upon a series of DMCA takedown requests which kindly request Google to remove various inconvenient links. While copyright has little to do with it, this route is worth a shot, they likely thought.

The senders have a lot in common. They all note that they’re “well-respected” in the society that they come from and accuse several websites of using their “image and name” to attract attention.

They were also all convicted of fraud, but that’s probably a coincidence.

Take radio talk-show host Warren Ballentine, for example, who describes himself as an artist and motivational speaker. While we would like to link to his Wikipedia page for some background, we’re hesitant to do so, as that’s one of the allegedly offending websites.

“I am a well respected person in the society that I come from, the US, and other parts of the world where I am known as an artist and motivational speaker,” Ballentine wrote to Google.

“However, recently, there are a number of websites that utilize my image and name to attract traction for people go through their content. I want Google to remove such sites from the search. Thanks.”

Unfortunately for Ballentine, Google decided not to honor his request. Perhaps because the content he linked to in the DMCA notice is not infringing on any copyrights?

This means that the various news reports and the Department of Justice’s press release on his conviction for engaging in two mortgage fraud schemes remain online.

Oh, and the aforementioned Wikipedia entry remains unscathed too. And the same applies to various unrelated links to other Warren Ballentines, which were inadvertently included in the takedown requests.

But perhaps the true reason for the notices is to cover up the past? It wouldn’t be the first time that someone tried that, and this failed attempt appears to be part of a series, as we hinted at earlier.

Over the past few weeks, there have been several similarly worded takedown requests from well-respected people who have been convicted of fraud. Such as this one, from tax fraud convict Monica Morgan, and several others from pension fraud convict Chauncey Mayfield, which haven’t gone unnoticed.

According to the information provided to Google, these people submitted the requests themselves. However, since the language is nearly identical, it appears to be a coordinated action.

It’s clear that the DMCA takedown requests all target mentions of their mishaps, as well as other unrelated links that rank well for their name. While this urge may be understandable, copyright law is not any help in this case.

In fact, abusing DMCA notices usually backfires, whether someone’s well-respected or not.

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