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City Council Candidate Censors Debate with DMCA

claytongulick (725397) writes | more than 3 years ago


claytongulick (725397) writes "I've become involved in a local city council election in Grapevine, Texas. Normally, these elections are pretty friendly affairs, but this one has turned nasty: one of the city council candidates has been using the DMCA to censor websites that are critical of her.

    The website "" contained information and questions critical of the candidate Kathleen Thompson. The site contained public records information about the funding sources of Kathleen's campaign and questions about her background and organizational affiliation.

    In a chilling example of the censorship powers of the DMCA, this website was taken down only a week before the election. Kathleen's DMCA claims were clearly bogus (she claimed copyright on public records) but according to the DMCA, this doesn't matter — when a DMCA takedown notice is filed, the ISP removes the site, then has fourteen days to notify the owner of the website of the alleged infringment, whereupon the owner can file a counter-notice.

    The problem here, is that the DMCA is clearly being abused — and by the time a counter notice could be filed, the election will be over. The owner of the site has no recourse, and in this way any information that is damaging to a candidate can be censored until after the election.

    The only penalties, according to the DMCA section 512, for filing a fradulent notice are that the filer will have to pay the expense of putting the site back up (and attourney fees, if applicable). Well, in the case of a political election, the filers wouldn't even fight the counter-notice and would be happy to pay the penalty to restore the site — after the election has passed.

    Clearly, this was never the intended purpose of the DMCA — but what she has done doesn't appear to be in any way illegal.

    Is this the future of politics? Will political candidates be able to censor information on the web at any time using bogus copyright claims and the DMCA?

(Disclaimer: as I mentioned, I became involved with this election when I created a campaign site for a different candidate — not the one that was taken town)"

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that is a penalty? (2)

CTU (1844100) | more than 3 years ago | (#36089834)

I think the fines for filing a fake DMCA take-down should be 10K fine paid to the people that were wronged or something along those lines, but will prob never happen.

Election fraud (2)

theshibboleth (968645) | more than 3 years ago | (#36090056)

This sounds extremely distressing although obviously the other candidates would benefit if Thompson got caught up in a scandal, so it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. I'm not an expert on Texas law nor law in general, but in my state elections are under the jurisdiction of the state secretary of state, and so electoral fraud would be reported to his or her office. In general electoral fraud is a felony, so while the website might have to remain down, the candidate could still face severe repercussions.

There is a simple technical solution for this: (1)

Avidiax (827422) | more than 3 years ago | (#36093664)

Change the DNS records to point to a new ISP mirroring the old contents.

Re:There is a simple technical solution for this: (1)

Hyperhaplo (575219) | more than 3 years ago | (#36102798)

A "technical solutions" may just be a bandaid.

The real question is how to solve the problem.

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