YouTube Anti-Scientology Takedowns: Good News, Bad News - 2008-09-25
Here's the good news: YouTube quickly realized something was fishy, and began investigating. Within days, YouTube suspended the accounts that had sent out the allegedly fraudulent DMCA takedown notices, reinstated the accounts that had been suspended for multiple allegations of copyright infringement, and put most of the videos back up on YouTube, all without waiting to receive DMCA counter-notices from YouTube users who had had their videos taken down.
Well done, YouTube. The company identified a problem and worked to resolve it and protect users, rather than waiting passively for the takedown targets to send counter-notices. As we noted last month, online service providers play a crucial role in preserving and promoting online political speech, and YouTube seems to have taken that role seriously here.
Now, the bad news: if YouTube had not been proactive in dealing with what appeared to be fraud, the Anti-Scientology videos might still be down today. Very few YouTube users filed DMCA counter-notices in response to the takedowns, apparently out of concern for their privacy. The DMCA-compliant counter-notices must normally include the full name, address, and telephone number of the alleged copyright infringer. YouTube passes this information along to the party making the copyright infringement claim. Scientology critics, reportedly concerned about Scientology's alleged Fair Game policy, were reluctant to surrender their anonymity.