In the past couple weeks, two major online service providers, Blogger and Flickr, announced improvements to their DMCA takedown policies. EFF had a hand in both: Blogger contacted us to discuss their improvements, and we contacted Flickr to raise some concerns we had. We're glad to see these improvements, which make the process more transparent for users and minimize the collateral damage to free speech that can sometimes be the result when a copyright owner sends a takedown notice.
Blogger's improvements came in response to complaints from MP3 bloggers, who sometimes saw entire blog posts disappear thanks to one allegedly infringing link. These bloggers were unable to determine which links in their blog posts drew the takedown notice (many of the links were sent by record labels seeking exposure), and thus unable to edit and restore their posts. Blogger has responded by unveiling a forms-based takedown process that should make it easier for the service to parse what, exactly, in a blog post is allegedly infringing. Also, the move to electronic takedowns will speed up Blogger's ability to forward notices to Chilling Effects, where users can review them. Most importantly, rather than deleting the entire blog post in response to one link, Blogger now puts the post into "draft" mode, thereby allowing the user to edit out the link and restore the remainder of the post. These are all good steps toward minimizing the "collateral damage" caused by a DMCA takedown notice aimed at links, rather than other original content. (We remain concerned, however, that Blogger still isn't directly forwarding the takedown notice to the user -- it seems odd to force them to rely on Chilling Effects.)
Flickr also introduced a number of improvements to the DMCA takedown process, motivated by the recent controversy surrounding the Obama-Joker image posted by Flickr user Firas Alkhateeb. Most importantly, when a photo is removed, its title, description, comments, tags, and notes will remain available (YouTube could learn from this example!). This is an important improvement that preserves the discussion about the allegedly infringing material, something that a copyright owner is not entitled to censor with a DMCA takedown notice. Flickr will also restore the original image to its original context in response to a DMCA counter-notice, another important improvement. Too often, takedowns are sent for illegitimate censorial reasons, and if the user elects to submit a counter-notice, she should be able to restore the material to its original location, complete with its original context.
Kudos to Blogger and Flickr for taking the concerns of their users seriously, even as they comply with the DMCA takedown notices that they receive from copyright owners. Their actions raise the bar for other service providers, hopefully encouraging users to vote with their feet and abandon services that are sloppy about handling DMCA takedown notices.