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.