My first reaction was to immediately contact my webhost (who happens to be my husband) as to whether or not he would be okay with my moving the .PDF to his servers. A member of the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has successfully defused what’s commonly referred to as a “DMCA takedown” on behalf of his clients, he was most eager to help me out.
My second reaction was to try and find out exactly who filed the complaint against me because in my research for an unrelated article, I learned that this was not the first time that the SFWA has had material removed from Scribd under dubious circumstances.
As reported by Boing Boing, in August 2007 Dr. Andrew Burt, the chair of the SFWA anti-piracy committee, worked with Scribd in connection with the DMCA to attempt to remove texts which were infringing on some member copyrights. The result of the broad approach was a removal of all material containing certain keywords, including completely unrelated material and content which had been uploaded by SFWA members to their own accounts such as Cory Doctorow’s Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom—the first novel to be published under a Creative Commons license. During the fallout, the SFWA by-laws were rewritten so that only the SFWA board president had the authority to either personally issue a DMCA takedown notice or authorize a representative to do so on behalf of a member or the SFWA—if that member so chose, that is.
The only clue I had was the boilerplate letter from Scribd itself:
When I showed this to my webhost, he confirmed that by including the paragraph that begins “Please note that under Section 512(f) of the Copyright Act, any person…” in the boilerplate, this was indeed a letter that was generated after a genuine attempt to use the DMCA to force Scribd to remove the content. In addition, when I clicked on the link to the .PDF, I was re-directed to a new page featuring this epitaph: “This content was removed at the request of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America,” screencapped at the beginning of this post. At this point, I knew that I might be able to find some more clues in the SFWA member forums as well as the “secret” forums on sff.net, but since I was a member of neither, I wouldn’t be able to get any concrete information.
Doing some more research, I discovered that only one person in recent memory had revealed what members of the SFWA had been saying in its member forums and/or in the private SFWA Lounge forum on sff.net. After the groping incident between Harlan Ellison and Connie Willis on stage at the 2006 Hugo Award ceremony, American author David Moles decided that the varied reactions from members within the science-fiction/fantasy community in their gated forums needed to be widely disseminated and posted select quotes to his blog (link goes to the Archive.org version). For his actions in violating the rules of the members-only forum, Moles was censured from the SFWA, an action for which a whole new set of a rules and by-laws had to be created.
As he explained by email when I asked about his experience, Moles was appalled when “other professional writers, some I’d been a fan of and some I knew personally, were trying to minimize the incident, defend Ellison, and claim that no such sexual harassment culture existed …. And the fact that these sentiments were being expressed only behind closed clubhouse doors was itself, I thought, disrespectful to fans, to writers outside SFWA, and to the broader SF reader/writer community.”
“[In] hindsight, I don’t think what I did worked out so well,” he continued. “It diverted a lot of the energy of the community from fighting about Ellison and/or sexual harassment at conventions to fighting about me and sff.net forum ‘privacy’. It lost SFWA at least a handful of members who weren’t happy with the organization’s failure to kick me out, and while I’m personally not sorry to see the back of them, I am sorry SFWA lost their dues money.”
Further emails between myself and Moles revealed that SFWA vice president Rachel Swirsky was responding to inquiries about this situation en masse via Twitter using very blunt words: