You can add this to an ever growing and large list of times when copyright was used as a tool for censorship. Independent artist In-Flight Safety has been fighting to keep their legally uploaded videos on YouTube after major record label Universal Music Group used the DMCA to censor them.
In-Flight Safety has never signed a contract with Universal Music Group (UMG) nor are they affiliated with the major record label. Still, that hasn’t stopped UMG from sending DMCA notices to YouTube to have their music videos taken down. According to the CBC, it didn’t just happen just once, but rather, five times:
But the music industry giant has been connected to orders for the takedown of five of the band’s songs from YouTube. Most recently, it was the band’s song Out of Sight, some versions of which remain blocked.
“I got to YouTube and it said this song has content owned by Universal Music Group and it’s been removed from YouTube. And I thought OK that’s enough of that,” said band member John Mullane.
In each case, the band has had its music reinstated.
“It was a crazy thing to try to do as an independent band, to call a big record company and actually get someone on the phone.”
As an artist myself, I can sympathize with the band. Back in January, US prosecutors censored my works when they pulled down MegaUpload. Lucky for me, I had copies of my work which I promptly re-uploaded to other websites so music fans can check out my music. One of those websites was WUpload. Four months later the MPAA pressured the website to censor me, making it the second time foreign multinational corporations have used copyright to censor me. Unfortunately, unlike In-Flight Safety, there was no re-instatement, so I have technically suffered losses and damages as a result of these corporations activities. Still, since these corporate entities wanted to play games with me, I decided to upload my own music to a tonne of different websites (let’s see the MPAA, RIAA, etc. censor me now!)
While some might call what Universal is doing anti-competitive (given that they have taken out a competitive product), isn’t it coincidental that UMG was before US regulators earlier this week trying to say that the record label buying EMI does not raise concern about competition on the music industry.
The scary thing about all of this is that this is with current and existing US law (DMCA). Imagine what would happen under a three strikes law as being proposed in the UK or a six strike rule as about to happen in the US. Let’s not forget the SOPA-style censorship seen in the TPP (which also contains provisions to force countries to adopt a three strikes law).
The bottom line is this, we’re not necessarily concerned about such tough anti-piracy laws because we don’t want to stop downloading copyrighted content all day long. We are concerned about such tough anti-piracy laws because of the potential harm it could do to lawful people and lawful content. This is just one of numerous examples where even existing copyright laws are being used as a tool for censorship. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, innocent people are being screwed here.
(Hat tip: Michael Geist)