YouTube, Scientology and the DMCA

You've all seen the anti-Scientology protests; a group known as Anonymous, wearing Guy Fawkes, protest outside various churches of Scientology, or most recently here in Cambridge, outside of an exhibit aimed at teaching people about the religion. Many such protests have been videotaped, then uploaded to YouTube. Several users have also posted responses to protests.

Late last week, it was reported that American Rights Counsel LLC had sent over 4,000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube on the basis that some anti-Scientology videos on the site violated copyright. One such video is this one from Ironhead097, entitled "To Anonymous/Scientology":

During a span of twelve hours on September 4 and 5, several videos were removed and several users banned. YouTube users responded with DMCA counter-notices, and as a result, a number of accounts have been reinstated.

Subsequent investigations by YouTube users into the "American Rights Counsel LLC" have proved fruitless; a simple Google search shows that the company does not have a main website. In fact, every mention of the "American Rights Counsel LLC" on Google relates to Scientology.

The question is: Who are the American Rights Counsel LLC? This video, posted by a member of the group "Anonymous" asks the same question:

If, hypothetically, the claims in the video are correct and a member of Scientology has filed the DMCA notices fraudulently, there are legal ramifications. According to the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse:

"Subsection 512(f) attempts to limit false and fraudulent claims of copyright infringement under the DMCA. Anyone who fraudulently claims copyright infringement or fraudulently claims that non-infringing material was wrongly removed, or that access to it was wrongfully disabled, is liable to anyone who suffers any damages because of that misrepresentation, including court costs and attorney's fees"

Whether the claims are true or not, this is ultimately a free speech issue as well as a potential legal one that should spur discussion yet again on the fairness of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

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