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Science Fiction Writers Write DMCA Takedowns 197

TheGreatGraySkwid writes "With an ironic lack of forward thinking, the Science Fiction Writers of America (or, more specifically, their Vice President Andrew Burt) have issued scattershot DMCA takedown notices against numerous items on the document-sharing site Scribd, many of which were not infringing on SFWA copyrights in any way. It appears that a simple keyword search for prominent science fiction names (like 'Asimov' and 'Silverburg') was used to determine which documents were to be singled out. Included in the documents was Cory Doctorow's 'Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom,' which was released under the Creative Commons license and is freely available at any number of places. Doctorow is up in arms over at BoingBoing, with several other Science Fiction notables speaking up in the comments."
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Science Fiction Writers Write DMCA Takedowns

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  • Cory (Score:5, Informative)

    by just_another_sean ( 919159 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:27PM (#20427979) Journal
    I read Cory Doctorow's response. It was very insightful, intelligent and on point. There was a slight caustic edge to it but I think that's understandable in this case...

    I would like to think that this little incident will be a wake up call to these consortium types who go so overboard in "protecting their consituents" but I'm going to take a I'll beleive it when I see it attitude for now.

    I hope someone does go after them for this though, if nothing else to add one more precedent to the "frivolous use of DMCA notices" body of law.
  • Down and Out et. al. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Scutter ( 18425 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:44PM (#20428109) Journal
    I note that Cory's Down and Out... has since been replaced on I wonder if they replaced all of the erroneously (I mean illegally) removed works.
  • by Chirs ( 87576 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @03:46PM (#20428125)
    Ah, but the author *stated* that it was a takedown notice. Either the author was lying or misunderstood what was required for a valid notice.

    I can understand why Scribd took them down, as lawyers don't come cheap.
  • Re:Cory (Score:5, Informative)

    by krgallagher ( 743575 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:02PM (#20428231) Homepage
    "I read Cory Doctorow's response. It was very insightful, intelligent and on point. There was a slight caustic edge to it but I think that's understandable in this case..."

    Yeah I had pretty much the same reaction. That caustic edge left me wondering if maybe he was a nut case. I decided to look up his credentials [] on Wikipedia. Here is the last paragraph of the 'Fiction' section of the entry for him:

    He won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 2000, the Locus Award for Best First Novel for Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom in 2003, and in 2004 he won the Sunburst award for best Canadian Science Fiction Book for his short story collection, A Place So Foreign and Eight More. This collection also contained his short story "0wnz0red", which was nominated for the 2003 Nebula Award.

    I even when through the last months worth of edits to make sure he had not doctored his biography recently to make himself seem more credible. Personally I think he has decent credentials.

  • Re:Cory (Score:5, Informative)

    by catbutt ( 469582 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:15PM (#20428351)
    Well he is basically the main dude at BoingBoing, which I figure a good percentage of Slashdot readers visit daily. I'm surprised you haven't run into him before.

    Frankly it amazes me that they were dumb enough to include his works, given how outspoken he is on such issues.

    And yeah, he's a bit of a nutcase I suppose. ( [] )
  • by PhywriterDotCom ( 860343 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:17PM (#20428365)
    Not yet, no: []

    Ray Gun Revival magazine has at least two works that have been removed by Scribd at SFWA's behest merely for mentioning the last names 'Asimov' and 'Heinlein'.

    We filed our DMCA counter-notification and are awaiting the mandatory ten day time period.

    The story, for me, is recounted here: 5&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0 []

  • by eagl ( 86459 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:31PM (#20428529) Journal
    Dr. Jerry Pournelle notes in his daybook (blog... whatever) that scribd has at least one of his works on the site, entirely without permission (and therefore illegally). The process to remove a work is lengthy and emails were apparently not returned. When this sort of abuse of copyright occurs, why is anyone suprised when people who rely on income from their efforts band together to attempt to halt the infringment?

    Theoretical blathering on copyright aside, unauthorized posting of complete copyrighted works that ought to be a source of income to the writers who write books for a living is not right. There are no MPAA or RIAA strongarm tactics at work here. Rather, there are actual writers attempting to defend their copyrights.

    Everyone rightly complains when the RIAA sues a grandmother for $10,000, but if an individual musician requests that a site illegally hosting an entire album stop unauthorized distribution of their work, isn't that a lot different?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:42PM (#20428633)
    Here you go, scroll down a little bit to see it (Corey Doctorow): iday []

    Read the whole thing

  • by N7DR ( 536428 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:46PM (#20428689) Homepage
    How does your organization work? Does it do this for its members as a service, protecting your copyrights? Do members grant permission for this? If not, they don't have the right to issue DMCA takedowns for copyrights they don't own. Did you have to sign some small print somewhere?

    Well, like many organizations, the word "work" doesn't necessarily describe things very well :-)

    Andrew Burt is currently VP, and I have just looked at the current copy of our journal of record, and I can find no hint in the records of Board meetings or in the reports submitted by the individual officers, that this action has been sanctioned as an official act.

    And to (finally) answer your question: to the best of my knowledge there is no simple place to sign up for anything like this kind of "service". I could imagine people contacting the SFWA to ask them to help with removal of copyrighted works that that particular individual has found (and for which he owns the copyright), and I would expect the SFWA to help in such an (isolated) instance. But as far as I know, the SFWA has no standing to conduct the kind of sweeping action suggested in TFA, because members do not automatically give it that authority; as far as I know, members would have to do so explicitly, via some kind of definite communication with the SFWA.

  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @04:47PM (#20428707)

    The process to remove a work is lengthy and emails were apparently not returned.

    The process to remove a work is to provide a notice conforming to 17 USC 512(c)(3)(A), which should take about half an hour if you've actually located infringing content, and by sending that to the registered agent identified on the publicly accessible portion of the website (as required by 17 USC 512(c)(2)), and then check to see if the infringing work is expeditiously removed as required by 17 USC 512(c)(1)(C). If not, file a lawsuit, because the service provider is outside of the DMCA liability shield, and is subject to suit for damages and injunctive relief for the infringment.

    If the service provider tries to put you through additional hoops and draw the process out, well, as long as you do what is required and document it, they're the one's left holding the bag.

    Anyhow, no amount of actual infringement justifies the illegal (under 17 USC 512(f)) misrepresentation involved in the false claims of copyright ownership and infringement at issue here.
  • by DragonWriter ( 970822 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:13PM (#20429455)

    It was clearly foolish for the organization to send out notices about content it doesn't own.

    Foolish, sure, but also illegal.
  • by NoMaster ( 142776 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:31PM (#20429585) Homepage Journal
    "Interesting; I never realized Pournelle was such a dick."

    That's all it took for you to realise Pournelle was a dick? What, you've never read any of the inflated self-important name-dropping crap he's written for Byte or his blog over the last 30 years?

    Stuff like 3 pages to tell you how his PSU died, so his son the admiral spoke directly to the naval chief-of-staff, who had a quiet word to the commander in chief, who picked up the Oval Office hotline to Dell - resulting in Michael Dell coming out personally to replace the PSU, and incidentally bringing with him a 3 TB array housing, which he'll review in a future column.


  • by scalzi ( 878223 ) on Friday August 31, 2007 @06:52PM (#20429735) Homepage
    This is posted on the SFWA Web site here []. It's from Michael Capobianco, President of SFWA.

    I want to respond to the flurry of activity that has resulted from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) mistakenly identifying several works as infringing copyright. First, some background. There have been discussions within SFWA for several months regarding websites that allow users to upload documents of all sorts for other users to download and share. Many hundreds of copyrighted texts have been put online at these sites, and the number is growing quickly. Some SFWA members complained about the pirating of their works to SFWA's e-Piracy Committee and authorized the committee to do something about it. SFWA contacted, one of these sites, about removing these authors' works and generated a list of infringing works to be removed.

    Unfortunately, this list was flawed and the results were not checked. At least three works tagged as copyright infringements were nothing of the sort. I have personally apologized to the writers and editors of those works. If you are a creator who has had material removed and has not yet been contacted, please email me at

    SFWA's intention was to remove from only works copyrighted by SFWA members who had authorized SFWA to act on their behalf. This kind of error will not happen again.

    Michael Capobianco
    President, SFWA

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"