updated 11:05 pm EST, Wed December 14, 2011
Universal misuses DMCA to silence MegaUpload talk
Universal drew fire Wednesday after it appeared to be misusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to silence news of MegaUpload. The movie and TV studio had YouTube pull down an episode of TWiT's Tech News Today on Monday for including two clips of MegaUpload's celebrity-laden song endorsing its file transfer service. Show co-host Tom Merritt had the show back up after a dispute, but Universal issued a DMCA request on Tuesday and will manage to keep it down for at least 10 days following a counter-dispute from Merritt through YouTube.
A Universal lawsuit could follow if the studio sincerely believes there was a copyright violation, but it's unclear that it could or would go that far. As a news outlet, TWiT was using only partial clips under fair use for reporting. Suing could potentially backfire by establishing a legal precedent. Universal also doesn't own the rights to the MegaUpload song and can't claim a copyright violation.
Instead, Universal may have been simply exploiting YouTube policies and legal requirements to minimize talk of a service it doesn't like but which it doesn't have legal ground to attack. Unlike a service such as LimeWire or the original Napster, MegaUpload is used frequently for legal file transfers and has usually been responsive to takedown requests. The block wasn't a complete censorship, since TWiT hosts its own content, but would have conveniently taken down a news story on the world's largest video site during the time when it was most relevant.
The decision could underscore the concerns over the SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act) and its possible overreach. While the DMCA often lets companies force individual pieces of content down while under dispute, SOPA could see whole sites taken offline, even if the potentially illegal content is just one user-submitted item. [via The Verge]