Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 13, 2004
By: Kevin Drum

THE THIN-SKINNED TIMES....In case you haven't been following this, a guy named Robert Cox produced a parody version of a New York Times correction page a few days ago and was promptly served with legal notice from the Times to take it down because of copyright violation. Parody is a well known fair use exception to the copyright rules, but whether Cox exceeded fair use or not is something I can't judge.

(Cox took the parody down after the Times asked him to, but some other bloggers have picked it up in the meantime. You can see it here.)

The Times also made a DMCA complaint to Cox's ISP asking them to take his site down, which he received a copy of yesterday. Now, their first action was moronic enough, providing vast amounts of publicity to a site that otherwise wouldn't have gotten much, but this action is almost beyond belief. The complaint includes a bunch of screen captures of Cox's site, and as near as I can tell there's nothing there that even remotely infringes on the Times' copyright.

This goes beyond mere bullying and descends into paranoid and hypocritical lunacy. The Times certainly has the right to protect its copyright, but at the same time you'd think the publisher of the Pentagon Papers would show a little more respect for free speech and a little more tolerance for criticism.

They should be ashamed of themselves.

UPDATE: I also see that on Thursday Cox contacted his ISP, who told him that "under the terms of the DMCA their hands are tied. They were willing to give me a one-day extension but until The New York Times withdrew their complaint to Verio my site would be shut down for 10-14 days pending a review of my counter-claim."

I never liked DMCA much in the first place, but is this really true? All you have to do is make a complaint and a website is shut down for 10-14 days?

Especially in cases of free speech, shouldn't the burden be on the plaintiff to prove infringement? Does DMCA really allow a corporation to shut down a website merely on their say so, without so much as an injunction or a public hearing?

UPDATE: The Times has backed off. Details here.

Kevin Drum 8:31 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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