Man Receives DMCA Notice Over His Personal Work from Sony

False DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notices have become an all too common occurrence in the US. Recently, a man received a DMCA takedown over a video he created and published and subsequently licensed to Sony. The DMCA notice was sent by non other than Sony.

Picture yourself as a professional video shooter. You create stock footage and post it online for others to see. The idea behind this being that your footage can be used to help others with their creative projects. If an organization or individual user wants to use that footage, they can obtain a license from you. At some point, your footage attracts the eye of a major record label who wants to use the footage for a music video. Happily, you work out an agreement and your video is used for a music video. All seems well until one day you receive a DMCA complaint against your original footage. It’s from the same record label you licensed your video to and in no way did you relinquish your rights to that video to them in the first place. What ensues is a long and annoying process of fighting against the label just to get your footage that you are the rightsholder of back on YouTube. Even if you are supportive of the DMCA and say that the law is critical to ensuring a fair and balanced approach to copyright online, there’s still a strong possibility that you can appreciate the opinion that what the major record label did was not right.

The events described above isn’t some made up “what if?” scenario. It is a series of events that happened to Mitch Martinez who found himself fighting Sony Music Entertainment just to get his own video re-instated back on YouTube.

Martinez first filed a copyright dispute with YouTube, hoping to resolve the issue quickly and painlessly. In this case, Martinez also has an extra incentive not always afforded to those who are on the receiving end of a false takedown notice: threaten to revoke the licensed material being used by the complaining party if they do not respond in a reasonable amount of time. It may sound like a slam dunk to get the video back at this stage, but in this case, not so:

A day or so after filing my dispute, I checked the status of the claim on YouTube and found a status update explaining that “The claimaint (Sony Music) has reviewed their claim and confirmed it was valid” — it was essentially saying that someone at Sony or a person that manages their YouTube account reviewed the information I provided and said, “Nope. This is definitely our footage and we own the copyright”.

This was a first for me. I e-mailed the person I issued the license agreement a second time with an update about the denied dispute and emphasized the immediate need for removal of copyright claim to my content.

What followed was several follow-up e-mails from Marinez trying to resolve the issue, but after a lack of response, Martinez filed his own DMCA complaint against the music video in question. Eventually, after a series of recorded phone calls, Sony’s legal department finally released the claim.

What may come as a surprise to some is the fact that this is not only not the first time Sony found themselves in a questionable position on copyright, but also not even the most dramatic. Back in 2008 while working for ZeroPaid, I reported a dispute that took a far more dramatic turn (the displayed name in the article is incorrect due to an error). This, of course, was the story famous for the headline “Sony BMG Sued for Software Piracy – Assets Seized”

In that story, Sony was using management software by PointDev in France. The company one day had some problems with the software and contacted PointDev in an effort to resolve the issue. The company requested the license key to the software which Sony happily handed over. It turned out, the key was pirated. What ensued was PointDev contacting authorities on the matter. Sometime after, bailiffs were mandated and a full-fledged raid was conducted on the property. Assets and servers were seized and the pirated software was found on four of those servers. While Sony was reportedly sued and was expected to make an appearance in court, no new details emerged since then.

Still, for digital rights advocates, this case is just one more example of what the dangers are for having a notice-and-takedown system. Whether the complaining party is in the right or in the wrong, they hold the power to be judge, jury, and executioner without any oversight. The only recourse afforded to victims of false takedowns is to prove their innocence on the matter. Even then, it can be quite difficult to be found innocent if what was seen above is any indication.

(Hat tip /.)

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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