February 24, 2011 | By

New Honorees in the Takedown Hall of Shame

Co-authored by Eva Galperin and Abigail Phillips

Bogus copyright and trademark complaints have threatened all kinds of creative expression on the Internet. EFF's Takedown Hall of Shame collects the worst of the worst. Today, we welcome two new additions to our gallery of villains.

Penrose Triangle

Our first addition to the Hall of Shame involves the Penrose Triangle, an “impossible object” created by Oscar Reutersvärd of Sweden in the mid-1930s. Last week, Thingiverse, a site where users share 3D designs for printing, received a takedown notice for a 3D design of the triangle. Who sent this takedown notice? Not Reutersvärd. The sender and alleged copyright owner appears to be one Ulrich Schwanitz. Apparently, Mr. Schwanitz also created a 3D model of Reutersvärd’s triangle and is claiming that the version on Thingiverse violated his copyright. You can see a photo of his version here.

Copyright in what, you might ask—the original image? If someone else created the earlier illustration of this triangle, then Mr. Schwanitz can’t have the copyright in the image unless he somehow acquired it, or an exclusive right, from the owner. Nor can he claim a copyright in the process of converting the image to 3D; it’s a neat trick, but process isn’t protected by copyright. Finally, the rendering in 3D form doesn’t inject enough creativity into the model for Mr. Schwanitz to claim it’s separately copyrightable from the two-dimensional image. What we have here is another apparently baseless DMCA takedown.

The takedown notice (which Thingiverse has posted on its blog) doesn’t even comply with the DMCA, as it lacks an “under penalty of perjury” statement. Note: In this situation service providers usually advise or work with the sender of the notice to fix the deficiency, but no takedown is required for the safe harbor to apply. We’ll cut Thingiverse a little slack here since apparently it’s the first DMCA takedown notice they’ve ever received, but let’s hope this is the last time they take down content based on a noncompliant notice. See Perfect 10, Inc. v. CCBill LLC, 488 F.3d 1102, 1112 (9th Cir. 2007).

Urban Homesteading

We previewed this addition to our Hall of Shame in a blog post Monday about urban homesteading. In brief, the Dervaes Institute is claiming broad ownership rights over the term “urban homesteading”—a commonly used phrase to describe a social movement dedicated to achieving more self-sufficient, sustainable living in cities—and is sending takedown requests and warning letters targeting individuals and organizations that have been using the term for years. Even assuming the Dervaes Institute’s trademark registration is valid, the term has a popular meaning that anyone is free to use in a descriptive sense, which is exactly what the takedown targets did.

If you have received an abusive takedown notice that you think belongs in our Hall of Shame, please contact us at info@eff.org with a copy of the notice and a link to the allegedly infringing work. We won’t stand for takedown abuse and neither should you.

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