Thursday, August 20, 2015

Internet Censorship Part 1 Copyright

Today I'm going to launch a two part series on Internet Censorship. For Part 1 we're going to roll back the hands of time and look at Corporate Censorship through fraudulent copyright claims. To being with we'll talk about a case I was personally invoked with about Telus censoring videos on Youtube that Michael Geist wrote about and has now resulted in the Notice and Notice copyright system being implemented in Canada. In the US they have the Notice and Takedown system which as we shall see is filled with problems.

Back in the day I was a bit of a Labour activist so to speak. I supported the Telus employees who went on strike against their employer's use of off shore call centres. Sending Canadian jobs overseas is bad business. I had posted several videos about the dispute on Youtube. Songs employees wrote and performed, a bagpiper leading a picket line and various news reports on the strike. I also posted some exerts of Telus Idol which was a training video filled with sexual harassment. It was a spoof on American Idol and was totally inappropriate. They didn't just film it, they made all their employees watch it as a training video. When I posted it on Youtube they freaked and wanted it off the Internet as soon as possible.

So they contacted Yotube and asked the videos be removed because they violated Telus' copyright. They had all the videos taken off. Even the videos of the picketline and news reports. I complained to Youtube and said come on guys, take a look at the videos. There is no possible way they could own copyright to any of those videos. The only way I could get those videos back on Youtube was by filing a counter notification which I did. That in tern forced Telus to file a copyright claim with the courts which they did. Only they refused to serve me a copy of the claim. They once again tried to go ex parte - without me. It's a lot easier to argue your case when the other party isn't there to defend themselves.

Youtube ended up sending me a copy of their court application and I soon saw why they didn't want me present. They lied. They claimed Telus Idol was called Telus VOIP and was about Telus' voice over Internet protocol and was a copyrighted work. That was a bold faced lie. Telus Idol was a spoof on American Idol full of sexual harassment and had absolutely nothing to do with voice over Internet protocol. Nice try.

So I filled my response to the court objecting to them proceeding ex parte and pointed out that they lied in their application. They also made a fraudulent copyright claim on a whole list of other videos that had nothing to do with Telus Idol which they had no possible copyright claim on. Later I found out that one of their representatives said that the name of the CEO was protected by copyright and that they owned copyright to any video that uttered his name. It was absurd.

To make a long story short, I told the law firm in San Fransisco that they could have Telus Idol as long as I got back all the other videos. They refused and insisted on litigating it to the end. After a full trial against three different law firms they got Telus Idol and I got all the other videos back. Just like I had said.

I remember meeting with a lawyer that represented Telus in Vancouver from the largest firm I had ever seen not to mention gone up against. He was trying to get me to take down another web site I had about the CEO. I said sorry, no can do. He said how about I make that trial in San Fransisco disappear. I laughed and said I'm not to worried about that trial. I filed a Motion to Dismiss on Jurisdiction and had everything in their wish list taken off their application and made sure the case was strictly about videos posted on Youtube. I'm allowed to E-file court documents. I'm allowed to make telephone appearances and I caught them lying in their initial application. Quite frankly, I'm not too worried about that trial. He just kinda looked at me and growled.

I said to him, I fully realize we don't have the same amount of chips on the table here. If the court finds Telus right and I have violated their copyright, I could be fined $500,000 and go to jail. If I'm right and Telus did in fact commit copyfraud, fraudulently claiming copyright to something so they could censor the Internet, they could be fined $2,000 which is nothing for a big corporation. I looked at the lawyer and said I am fully aware I have much more to lose here then your client. He just looked at me in shock as if to say you realize that and you are still going to proceed. I just nodded embarrassed and said yes as his stunned look said you are insane. I felt sorry for him and wrote him a nice tribute. He still uses my quote on his home page. I'm the adversary he quoted.

The point of this tall tale is that one way large corporations censor the Internet is through fraudulent copyright claims. The Notice and Notice copyright system is better than the Notice and Takedown system as Michael Geist has explained. The Notice and Takedown model means as soon as a server gets an allegation that someone might sue, they take down the content to avoid spending money on a trial. The Notice and Notice model means the person who posted the information has a right to go to court without the server being sued. Peace.


  1. Copyright laws no longer do what they were intended to very well, assuming they ever did, but they're used to control speech about important issues and prevent people from accessing unless they pay for it. In a real Democracy people need access to accurate and diverse information to understand issues so they can make informed choices.

    In our system the information they need to make decisions is often "intellectual property" owned by the few and only those that can afford the time and money to access it can be as well informed as they need to be to participate.

    On top of that it is beginning to cost more to suppress information than it does to distribute it.

    There can be no justification if this is thought through so they don't think it through in the media and act as if it is a given. I went into this more in a couple previous blog posts including "Copyright violators are thought criminals" if anyone is interested.

    1. Excellent link. Well said. The US Constitution says"No State shall deny to any person within it's jurisdiction equal protection of the law." A rich man and a poor man are supposed to have equal protection of the law. That just doesn't happen in Canada.There isn't even duty counsel in Canadian civil court.


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