Jonathan Swift once wrote that satire is a mirror “wherein beholders do generally discern everybody’s face but their own.” To be successful, satire must be subtle.

So it’s disappointing to see Techdirt, the long-running satire of copyright skepticism, forget this lesson.

Yesterday, the site ran a story on HBO’s Latest DMCA Abuse: Issues Takedown To Google Over Popular VLC Media Player. The joke here is that copyright skeptics ignore the vast scale of legitimate copyright claims to focus on the handful of errors and outliers in order to make a blunt “copyright bad” argument. That this sort of thing is the problem with the DMCA, not the tens of thousands of bad faith sites that use the law as a shield to profit off the works of others. But in trying to lampoon this viewpoint, Techdirt overplays its hand.

The story here involves a DMCA notice sent to Google on behalf of HBO. Included in the notice is one link to a page ostensibly offering a legitimate copy of the open source video program VLC rather than an infringing copy of an HBO work. But a quick look at the notice reveals hundreds of other links that do lead to infringing HBO works — nearly 1,600 in total. Assuming the VLC link accurately describes the files content, that’s an accuracy rate of over 99.9% in the entire notice. Yet Techdirt claims it shows the DMCA agent “isn’t being very careful.” 99.9% accuracy, described by Techdirt as “incredibly sloppy.”

Anyone with half a mind would quickly recognize that no one who was serious would make such a claim. Even those in on the joke would have a hard time maintaining a willful suspension of disbelief.

It’s a shame too, because ordinarily, Techdirt’s satire is very effective. Its construction of an entirely incoherent First Amendment doctrine is masterful. The running gag where minor points are consistently contradicted — for example, “the Librarian of Congress, which you might notice is a part of the legislative branch, not the executive branch” vs. “the Librarian of Congress (who technically is a part of the executive branch, working for the President)” — rewards close readers. Here’s hoping Techdirt finds its groove again.

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6 Comments

  1. Terry, you have to admit you’re making this hard to follow, especially for those (unlike me in this case) who came in late.

    In other words, you’re being sarcastic… with respect to a site you describe as a successful “satire of copyright skepticism” … and hoping it gets its groove back.

    It’s a lot of geometry and irony, no? Do you just mean this schmuck has really overdone it this time?

    • Devlin Hartline

      Do you just mean this schmuck has really overdone it this time?

      That’s the way I took it. I think Terry is (quite sarcastically) saying that normally the “long-running satire of copyright skepticism” that is Techdirt is much more subtle in its craft, but here the “joke” about the one erroneous takedown notice out of hundreds of legitimate ones is so obvious that it shows Techdirt is off its game. Of course, what makes it so beautifully sarcastic on Terry’s part is that Techdirt isn’t trying to be satirical at all. I agree it’s kind of subtle for those unfamiliar with the Techdirt train wreck, but this article has had me laughing out loud for over an hour now.

  2. Google is NOT a “service provider” under 17 USC § 512(k)(i)(B) in the DMCA. Period. There’s lots of case=law where the judges omit half of the definition so that companies like Google, an on-line business that does not provide any internet access, and then claims a subdirectory of the same URL is therefore a specific URL, it is not.

    For HBO to have to send 1600 DMCA Takedown notices, as if it cost more to enforce their exclusive right rather than making the product to copyright, is obviously against 1:8:8 of the US Constitution. Plus recent case law rulings no longer protect Google, even YouTube, like Capital Records v. Redigit (all uploaded internet files are copies of the original), and Columbia Pictures et.al v. Fung, IsoHunt (Grokster III applies to the enabling of, and group participation to infringe ones work).

    Read arguments against Google/YouTube sent to Gignson Dunn & Crutcher LLP in the published book HR-2281 – And then the DMCA Didn’t Apply on the Earth (Viacom v. Google).

    You will notice that Bloomberg Television (and CNBC) refuse to provide the opinion I just described. And yet Ben Bernanke (of the Federal Reserve) continues to print money and call Americans “unemployable”. Argue the opinion (which is true).

    Thanks.

  3. Terry,

    Why do you not give the book, HR-2281 – And then the DMCA Didn’t Apply on the Earth (Viacom v. Google), a voice on your website? Is it too difficult?

    Thanks.

  4. Fixing errors in my top post:

    – Google is NOT a “service provider” under 17 USC § 512(k)(1)(B), not (k)(i)(B)
    – Arguments against Google/YouTube [were] sent to Gibson Dunn & Crutcher LLP, not Gignson
    – Capital Records v. ReDigi, not Redigit.

    Google/YouTube and Eric Schmidt are catastrophic worldwide thieves. No fix there.

    Thanks.

  5. Ah! Perhaps I have been reading TD without the recommended dose of salt! Of course it’s a satire! How else could one explain today’s post blaring the alarmist trumpet over a simple boilerplate copyright notice on the back of a comic book?!