March 20, 2015

Wordpress wins legal media challenges continue

Student blogger and Wordpress win against abuse of copyright law

A blogger on Wordpress platform has this month won a legal battle against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of the US. This is a big win for bloggers as it stops abuse of the copyright law to take down content in the pretext of copyright violation.

The battle ran for two years in California district court.

Blogger Hotham was a student when he posted an interview with the press officer of an anti-gay group, 'Straight Pride UK'. Soon, he received a message from Straight Pride UK warning him to take down the piece within the week. He decided to fight back.

Though the blogger and the group involved were based in the UK, the group sued Wordpress under DMCA. A clause of this law requires web-hosts (e;g; Wordpress, Blogger in the case of free-hosted blogs) to remove content when they are notified that it infringes a third-party's copyright. Wordpress said, no copyright violation had taken place by mere publication of the interview.

Ironically, while Wordpress and Hotham have been awarded costs and more, they are not going to get a penny. The website of Straight Pride UK website has disappeared and the group is unapproachable otherwise too!

It is to be seen whether this win will embolden web-hosts to fight back untenable notices to take down content. 

Student jailed for Facebook comment

On the other side of the globe, in Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, a student has been imprisoned just for sharing a Facebook comment that is seen critical of a controversial but powerful minister. The hugely controversial minister, Azam Khan, justified the jailing of the 11th class student for his crimes: 'promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc', 'intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace' and and 'public mischief'.

Governments aggressively force web-hosts to remove content

Facebook reports that in the second half of 2014, the US and Indian governments made the highest number of requests for user data: US government made over 14 thousand requests and in about 80% cases, the data was provided. Indian government made over 5400 requests and 45% of them were agreed to. Though Facebook didn't block any content in the US, it had to block 5832 pieces of content. Things have only worsened as compared to the past.

Facebook says, as compared to earlier periods, the US is not asking for more restrictions while India is more aggressive. In fact, in the number of total restrictions demanded, Indian government stands on top, as per Facebook data.

PS: The Bombay High Court has said, Cartoonist Aseem (who was charged with sedition, for his cartoons: detailed story here: Cartoonist Hanged) has the freedom of speech and expression though his cartoons lack wit and humour. It said, the government cannot check this freedom for fair criticism unless that leads to violence or public disorder, and cannot just slap a sedition charge.