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Spotlight On: Providing Your Personal Information For Copyright Infringement Claims

Updated on November 9, 2014

By Rachael O'Halloran

Published on November 9, 2014

Let's get the legal part out of the way first.

The general DMCA information in this article is paraphrased by me.

As you read this article, please remember that it is not to be considered legal advice. Consult an intellectual property attorney if you have questions regarding any copyright claim.

This article is my "armchair take" on a recent DMCA case regarding a YouTube video which had an eye-opening and potentially dangerous outcome.

Your "armchair take" is welcomed in the comments.

YouTube Copyright Infringement Hoaxes

Source

Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)

DMCA notices and counter-notices require your legal name, email address, physical address and a contact phone number.

Protecting Personal Information

One would think that, with all the hype around protection one's personal information, that any personal information provided on an infringement claim form would be protected, right?

No, it isn't.

And it says so in black and white. However, most people skip over the reading of that part on the DMCA form (and counter-notice forms) in their hurry to click the "submit" button.

This article is about someone who not only read that part, but took it seriously.

His life depended on it.

Safe Harbor and DMCA

About Safe Harbor and DMCA:

  • Safe Harbor does not protect the copyright holder. According to Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it protects web site hosting services (like YouTube), internet service providers (like Comcast, Cox, Verizon, BrightHouse and others), and search engines (like Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.) from liability for information posted or transmitted by subscribers, only if they quickly remove or disable access to material identified in a copyright holder's complaint.
  • In addition to the location of infringing material, the copyright holder (and anyone contesting with rebuttals) must provide their personal information: real name, email address, physical address and phone number.
  • No one (copyright holder nor the infringer) is notified ahead of time when any infringing information is removed from a website.
  • A "counter-notice" can be filed, if they think a site wrongfully removed the material.

Regarding a hosting website, Safe Harbor is in favor of the host. It simply means that the site hosting your content:

  1. has no knowledge that the content has been copied from another source
  2. must have an in-place copyright policy made available to all subscribers
  3. must remove and/or disable access to the content once they have been notified
  4. must have an agent who handles all their copyright infringement complaints

Filing A Copyright Infringement Notice (DMCA)

Have you ever filed a DMCA notice?

See results

Protecting Your Copyright

Lately, the world of protecting one's copyright filing DMCA notices and filing counter-notices has become a battlefield.

Going through the process is not for the faint of heart. One must be bold and steadfast - from filing infringement claims, getting hosts to take down infringing works, all the way through to suing for financial damages in a court of law.

It is a lot of work.

In some cases, it is more work than writing the actual article in the first place!

Because of this, many authors opt to let plagarists get away with stealing their hard work, either because the process seems too hard for them, because it takes too long from beginning to end or because they are worried about providing personal information on the claim forms.

HubPages Authors

A good number of HubPages authors are well-acquainted with the term "DMCA" because they have already filed copyright infringement claims against people who have stolen their articles to post on other websites.

There are other HubPages authors who haven't actually filed a copyright infringement claim, but they have at least read enough about the process on our site to know what I am talking about.

What I want to discuss with you today is what happens to all of your personal information, not only if you are the copyright holder, but if you are also the copyright infringer filing a counter-notice in response.

Filing A DMCA Notice

  • Filing with an internet search provider gives you a quick way to get your "copied" article removed from search results. It does not remove it from the internet, just the search results.
  • Filing with the host of the infringer's website usually will remove your article from the internet when you show them proof of your copyright claim.

Many people are under the impression that when they give their legal name, email and physical address and phone number on the DMCA form that it stays with the search engine or the web host their form was sent to.

Not so.

In most cases, they will forward a copy of your completed form to the infringer, either in place of or in addition to their own in-house form.

Your personal information has now been given to the very person who stole your article.

I don't know about you, but for me, that is a very scary thing.

A recent case I read about regarding a YouTube account holder has the shoe on the other foot.

Upon being accused of copyright infringement, he filed a counter-notice protesting the copyright claim and had to provide his personal information on the forms which was then sent to the party who was claiming copyright ownership.

This case makes me all the more leery of ever filing another DMCA notice in my lifetime.

It should make everyone think twice before they click "Submit" on the forms, whether they are the copyright holder filing DMCA or the accused infringer filing a counter-notice.

Barino Barsoum

 At the link, right click "translate to English" to read more about Barino Barsoum, his wife and family
At the link, right click "translate to English" to read more about Barino Barsoum, his wife and family | Source

Sabatina James

The site details her support for women's rights. Right click "translate to English" to read her story.
The site details her support for women's rights. Right click "translate to English" to read her story. | Source

Copyright Hoax

Cast of Characters

  1. YouTube Channel - owned by Google, has branches in many countries with moderators for each channel. These moderators handle a number of duties, part of which is responding to copyright infringement claims with counter-notices which require their contact information on the forms.
  2. Al Hayat TV - a German language Arabic YouTube channel, with subscribers who are mostly converts to Christianity. Uploads are primarily criticism of Islam and Islamists.
  3. Barino Barsoum - he is a former Islamist, now blacklisted by severa; al Qaeda groups, and was a moderator for the German branch of Al Hayat TV. He set up the original YouTube account for Al Hayat TV, choosing its user name and password. He is the author and presenter of countless YouTube videos for Al Hayat TV. He went into hiding after receiving death threats.
  4. Sabatina James - she and Barino Barsoum are the only two ex-Islamist moderators to show themselves publicly for Al Hayat TV. Her name is an alias she has used since 1982 when she fled Pakistan to avoid being forced into an arranged marriage to a cousin. As Sabatina James, she used Al Hayat TV's channel to communicate as a Christian activist for women's rights in Muslim countries. Due to threats, she was put in a victim protection program.
  5. First Crist, Copyright - the name used by a group terrorists who filed a false DMCA claim against Barino Barsoum of Al Hayat TV claiming copyright infringement as an attempt to get his personal information on a rebuttal form.

The Plot

First Crist, Copyright claimed Barino Barsoum's video belonged to them, and on September 25, 2013, they filed a false YouTube DMCA copyright infringement claim (giving the false name of "Edward Samuel George" and physical address which led to a Woolworth store in Sydney Australia) against Al Hayat TV, hoping to get Barino Barsoum to answer the claim.

Because Barino Barsoum was one of two moderators using the channel to communicate to ex-Islamists, gaining his personal information was of great importance to them.

YouTube's policy is to forward the copyright claim to the infringer - in this case, to Al Hayat TV.

  • What I didn't know is that the claims are not investigated first.

As one of the two moderators and primary uploader at Al Hayat TV, the copyright infringement claim came to Barino Barsoum's desk. However, he did not immediately answer with a counter-notice.

For nearly six months, several employees of Al Hayat TV, including Barino Barsoum and Sabatina James, were in contact with YouTube claiming that those behind the name "First Crist, Copyright" were Islamist terrorists using this false name to file a false copyright claim.

After hundreds of insults left in the comments on Al Hayat TV's channel, each requiring moderation for deletion until the comments were finally disabled, Al Hayat's channel hit one million views. But no amount of explaining their plight would get YouTube to listen to them.

After the initial claim, First Crist, Copyright filed two more copyright infringement claims during the six months. As per their policy, YouTube then locked Al Hayat TV's YouTube channel.

YouTube told Al Hayat TV that their channel was only locked, not removed. They said Al Hayat TV had to answer with a counter-notice to avoid the permanent removal of their YouTube channel.

YouTube's policy (hence Google's policy) is that once that counter-notice is received, they in turn will forward it to the filer of the initial DMCA notice - in this case, to First Crist, Copyright.

Quoted from Google and YouTube's notice on DMCA form: “By submitting a counter-notification, you consent to having your data be disclosed in this manner.”

Neither Sabatina James or Barino Barsoum were in favor or providing their personal information with address and city. However, in order to get the channel back on the web, Barino Barsoum decided to answer the copyright claim with a counter-notice and supplied his personal information (name, email and physical address) as was required on the form.

Two days after receiving it, First Crist, Copyright sent this email to Barino Barsoum: (paraphrased from translation)

“Thank you for your personal data. Take care that your house gets police protection!”

Barino Barsoum's personal data has since been found on websites and correspondence belonging to al Qaeda.

What's wrong with the guidelines?

YouTube Community Guidelines

YouTube says they have hundreds of moderators reviewing claims of flagged videos 24 hours a day. You would think that someone submitting a false claim might be caught.

They are reviewing moderators, not investigators.

YouTube Copyright Strikes

A complete legal request by a copyright owner is submitted to YouTube and they are required by law to take down the video.

It doesn't say they have to investigate it first to see if it is a true legal request.

I think we can expect a upsurge in the filing of copyright infringement claims against innocent people just because the filing party wants the sites taken down.

It's called "removing the competition."

Update

According to Cortez Journal, as of November 7, 2014, YouTube has amended the copyright form used to resolve copyright claims (way after the fact!).

Barino Barsoum said he was simply giving the contact information required on the counter-notice form and after he contacted YouTube about receiving death threats, they refused to address his dilemma.

Mounira Latrache, from YouTube, countered that Al Hayat TV could have entered an attorney's contact information instead of Barino Barsoum's contact information. But that fact was not shown on the form then.

It is now.


Epilogue

Because it was reported from underground sources that he was on an al Qaeda blacklist, Barino Barsoum was forced to stop working for the channel and took his family into hiding.

Sabatina James was also contacted with threats of death and threats of being returned to her family in Pakistan to fulfill an arranged marriage contract. Fearing for her life, she was placed in a victim protection program.

Regarding filing DMCA notices, we must remember that the DMCA law is in favor of hosts and search engines, protecting them so they can't be held accountable for infringing content found on their sites as long as they have a system in place where the infringing content can be reported and removed.

You report it, they remove it.

No one investigates the claim to see if it is true.

Chasing Rainbows

Since the publicity of this case in 2013, other copyright holders have been the target of hoax copyright claims for the purpose of getting the sites/channels shut down.

Others have been targets in order to get their contact information for nefarious reasons, including death threats.

Anyone can file a copyright infringement claim, whether they are telling the truth or not.

Although this case makes me think twice about filing a DMCA or counter-notice, it is a sad day when the original claim is not even investigated in the first place before forwarding it.

Why are we providing proof of copyright if it is not being investigated?

I guess I thought there was a little bit of common sense being exercised with the sharing of personal information, given the cases of identity theft, data breaches and privacy issues in this day and age, but I guess that was just chasing rainbows.

What is your opinion?

Before reading this article, did you think that copyright infringement claims were investigated before action was taken?

See results

Please don't copy my article. TYVM

Source

© Rachael O'Halloran, November 2014

© 2014 Rachael O'Halloran

Comments

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  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 2 years ago from Queensland Australia

    Rachael this is all so interesting. ..and also worrying. I had no idea that claims weren't investigated before action was taken, but the fact that your name and personal details are shared is scary. Voted up.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    Jodah, I thought at the very least that the claim was validated before any forwarding was done. I too am all the wiser while investigating for this article. Thank you for your visit and comment. :)

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    A most informative article, Rachael. It's pretty scary that these things aren't organised thoroughly and people are not protected as they should be. I put it down to the fact that the net has grown inordinately quickly and is therefore, generally, out of control.

    I'm not sure whether all this is the same here in Britain; probably not but then if it's concerning a US site we'd be under the same legislation wouldn't we? I find it very confusing.

    Well done for bringing this to light and warning others of the potential dangers. Voted up ++

    Ann

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    annart,

    US copyright law follows the Berne Convention so all 168 countries follow the same law but each has their own spin on it. Generally it is the same. The US laws and news get the most attention because they are the squeaky wheel that gets the grease, being a very large continent with laws not only for the whole country, but each state has their own guidelines for various laws. However, when it comes to copyright law, states have little to no say-so and the law of the whole US is what is followed.

    The internet is the best of inventions and the worst of inventions - depending on one's viewpoint and experiences with it. But I still wouldn't permanently give it up for all the world.

    The article concerned a German branch of an Arabic site and although US law is cited in the article, the copyright law is the same there as it is here when it comes to filing DMCA. I guess I should have made that more clear, forgive me I'm rusty from being away so long. lol

    Thank you for visiting and commenting and for voting.

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 2 years ago from SW England

    No criticism intended! You're not at all rusty. I just know very little about our copyright laws here. I do know that some of them are difficult to implement and a little 'woolly' to stay the least!

    It's good to see you back after your break. I've had internet problems so I'm trying to catch up now. Today is the first day I've managed to stay on line for longer than 10 minutes! Hope it lasts.

    Ann

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    I hope it lasts too! Enjoy the day :)

  • Nell Rose profile image

    Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

    Jeez! I never knew any of that! I did notice on the form for copyright here at the bottom of the page when we click on it to see if we can send a complaint that yes it did have my name and address on it, but I presumed, obviously wrongly, that they would check it all out and keep our addresses safe! what's the darn point of giving the copier url to them if they don't darn well check it? makes me think twice now, how terrible! great info, thanks!

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    Hi Nell, yes, what is the point of providing proof if they don't check it! This article was an eye opener for me, that's for sure. Thanks for your comment.

  • AliciaC profile image

    Linda Crampton 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    This is a very useful and worrying article, Rachel. The information that you've shared is both interesting and scary. I'm very glad that I've read this hub.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    AliciaC,

    Yes, it is scary. especially to anyone who doesn't want to use their real name on articles -- but yet, they must provide it on Google's DMCA documents.

    I wonder why no one has protested up till now, that their privacy has been invaded with Google's sharing of their personal information. I hope this case makes for some changes in that area.

    You know, the government redacts documents all the time before releasing them to the public. Sooooo .... why can't Google redact our names and contact info before forwarding the document?

    After all, the DMCA document should only be a notification to the infringer that "hey, you got caught stealing someone's work" instead of "here is the contact information of the guy you stole the work from."

    I think anyone reading this article and the comments here should create a dummy email to use as their email contact and then get the smallest cheapest post office box to use as their address in order to protect their identity from parties who really have no business knowing it in the first place.

    If the matter ever goes to court, that is time enough to reveal who the parties are. But in back and forth emails about removing "stolen" articles, it's like telling the bad guys where you are so they can attack you again -- as Barino experienced in this article.

    Thanks for reading, AliciaC.

  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 2 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    New to me and your thorough research enlightened me.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    DDE, I think this case may make people think twice before filing DMCA and that is a shame, because the system will get broken, authors will be back to square one in protecting themselves, and plagarism will be rampant.

    Thank you for reading.

  • vkwok profile image

    Victor W. Kwok 2 years ago from Hawaii

    It's good to know these facts. Thanks for sharing them, Rachael!

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 2 years ago from Central Florida

    Rachel, I've only filed two DMCAs. Both times, the owner of the site and the host contacted me and the duplicate content was then removed. I then went into my Webmasters Tool and requested the removal of the links from searches. Google verified that the links rendered a 404 message and removed the links from SERPs. There was no investigation to be done because the offenders knew they had infringed on my copyrights. However, the fact that they have my personal (location) information is disturbing.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    vkwok, I sure didn't know about the sharing of personal information before researching this. I mean, it was there in the TOS, but I too hit SUBMIT before comprehending. Thanks for reading.

    bravewarrior, I'm glad you had good experiences with filing. The sharing of personal information is a thorn in my side too. It's going to take a high profile case to stop this practice and protect the innocent. It might be this case (in my article) or it might be another. Thanks for reading.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 2 years ago from Wales

    Very interesting and useful Rachael . Thanks for sharing and I vote up plus share onto my FB page a Brand New Dawn.

    Eddy.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    Thank you Eddy, I appreciate the votes and share :)

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 2 years ago

    THanks for sharing the specifics on filing for copyright infringement. It is always good to keep these helpful posts on hand.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    teaches12345, thanks for reading my article.

  • tillsontitan profile image

    Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

    Useful information. It is truly a hassle to report works that were copied so I can see why people let it go. If you have more than one affected hub it is also very time consuming.

    Voted up, useful, and interesting.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile image
    Author

    Rachael O'Halloran 2 years ago from United States

    tillsontitan, I agree, filing is very time consuming. In my case, the most recent steal was in threes, so it took me a long time to complete DMCA process, notifying host, etc.

    Thank you for voting and commenting.

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