Trisha’s Take: How to properly issue and respond to a DMCA takedown notice (SFWA edition)

Click to enlarge © Geeking Out About

Click to enlarge © Geeking Out About

When I checked my email Monday morning, I was expecting to see the usual: job search referrals, ThinkGeek newsletters, Facebook notifications, maybe a notice from my local library telling me that my copy of Captain Vorpatril’s Alliance was ready for pick-up.

I did not expect to see a notice from Scribd.com claiming that I had violated a copyright.

What followed was a flurry of emails, some conversations with my webhost, another with my attorney, a lot of waiting—and finally, a sensible resolution.

But most importantly, I got to experience how a lot of “good intention” can almost be turned into a road leading into hell.

It all started back at the end of May when the Spring 2013 edition of the members-only publication of the SFWA Bulletin arrived in their mailboxes. Within its pages contained a long-running column written by authors Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick called Dialogues.

The topic for this issue revolved around the flurry of criticism that both had received from both members and non-members regarding two of their columns not more than three issues previous about “lady editors” and “lady writers” and the cover on one of those same issues which featured a buxom redhead in a chain mail bikini.

Long-time readers of this blog are already rolling their eyes in exasperation, but Malzberg and Resnick didn’t agree with the critiques and set forth to reply to their “anonymous” detractors. A whirlwind of discussion arose, and I posted my thoughts on how the whole mess could have been avoided in the first place.

As part of my original article, I had included a link to a .PDF which I stitched together from images found elsewhere on the Internet and had uploaded to my account on Scribd.com. This document contained low-res scans of the entire Dialogues column called “Talk Radio Redux” so that readers could determine for themselves whether Malzberg and Resnick’s reply to their critics was reasonable or invalid.

Though I didn’t get my college degree in either journalism or communications, I do know the importance of a primary source. As someone who wrote many English papers, I know how important it is to cite your work when making a point and provide references that anyone can access.

Until Natalie Luhrs at Radish Reviews posted the scans, all of the previous commentary on the Bulletin‘s content was based on selective excerpting which had been re-typed by the critics; this made it all too easy to dismiss the critics’ concerns. One of Mike Resnick’s supporters even illustrated this train of thought in the comments to Luhrs’ post:

Would you care to show all the columns [from issues #199 to 201?] The one that started the flame war? The first response? When you censor things like you do in this article, you only reinforce the idea that Resnick and Malzberg are right.

Luhrs’ response was perhaps a bit too prescient:

I don’t have the rest of the articles. If someone wants to provide me with images, I will be MORE THAN HAPPY to post them. My not posting them is not censorship–you will note that this site is not run by a “them” but by ME. As a private individual and as someone with significantly less power in the speculative fiction community that Mike Resnick and Barry Malzberg, I have no power to censor them.

There’s also this comment from a writer named Rochelle on an article written by author Amy McLane and posted at The Parking Lot Confessional:

Amy, could you provide me a link to what leightonmeester is responding to? Because I was startled in a different way when I read that section and all I could think was, “Surely, that didn’t appear in a professional arena…?

A different author named Shannon Leight responded by linking to my Scribd content, and I’m assuming she did so because she wanted for Rochelle to be able to confirm for herself that Malzberg’s and Resnick’s comments regarding their detractors had indeed been printed in the Bulletin. Other writers and organizations which have linked to the content on Scribd as part of their commentary on the controversy include this article on AdWeek, this article at The Daily Dot, this more recent article at Lit Reactor, and the references section of this Wikipedia article on the SFWA.

When I posted the .PDF to Scribd.com, I had briefly weighed the importance of respecting the Bulletin‘s and the authors’ copyright on the material against the more compelling journalistic need to ensure that the entire story was being accurately told—but only briefly. I scanned Scribd’s Terms and Policies pages and came away with the feeling that my re-posting of the images of the publication as part of my critique of the article and the situation fell under the “fair use” doctrine. I uploaded the .PDF, finished writing my article, and moved on to other stories.

Until Tuesday, that is, when Scribd sent me a boilerplate message stating that a third-party claimed that I had interfered with their copyright, referencing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) (.PDF).

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Posted on December 12, 2013 at 15:33 by Trisha Lynn · Permalink
In: Opinion/Editorial · Tagged with: , , , , ,