Matt Haughey recounts how he almost lost the business he’d been running for over a decade due to a bogus copyright claim:

“The formal retraction took nearly two weeks to secure and convince lawyers for my host that it was adequate for removing the DMCA claim. That’s two weeks into a 30 day window before I lost my rack of servers and hosting account completely. I’ll never forget last year when I went through this because it was two of the stupidest weeks of my life, all because of some problematic laws granted new powers to copyright holders and I had to engage in a prolonged legal fight thanks to a mistake made by a bot.”

This is my personal nightmare scenario: I get slapped with a DMCA takedown because one of my song titles resembles another song title, or one of my legally licensed cover songs attracts the attention of some label’s lawyers (or worse, a web-crawling robot script they employ), and I’d have to make a difficult and/or expensive choice.

My website is undoubtedly a low-value target, the smallest of small potatoes in the scheme of things. But companies have already used the DMCA to censor research that makes them look bad, silence critics and mess with their competitors.

It seems that these US copyright bills always start with “protecting our intellectual property” and end with “keeping you from knowing, doing or saying things we don’t want you to know, do or say.”

I’d like to believe that the Stop Online Piracy (STOP) and Protect IP (PIPA) bills would only be used to target “rogue” “foreign” infringing websites, as the authors and supporters contend. But that’s naïve, because the copyright laws we have now are already being abused.

January 23, 2012