Straight Pride UK uses US copyright law to remove critical article

August 13, 2013
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Anti-gay campaign group Straight Pride UK has used US copyright law to remove an article showing it supports homophobic laws on a British student blogger’s website.

Straight Pride UK describes itself as “a small group of people campaigning for the same rights as homosexuals, the right to Pride…

“We want the right to march and say that we are straight and proud, in the current political correct society we are unable to do this. We are oppressed and silenced.”

On its website the group adds: “Homosexuals have more rights then [sic] others, they also have ‘special rights’ which trump others, cause problems for faith organisations, hotels, alike, heterosexuals must have rights to refuse, it is not ‘homophobic’ or ‘bigoted’ it is a persons [sic] right to without fear of being silenced or abused.”

The Guardian reports student Oliver Hotham published an interview with the group in which they stated that they “admire President Vladimir Putin of Russia for his stance and support of his country’s traditional values”.

In relation to the implementation of anti-gay laws, the press release from Nick Steiner said: “Straight Pride support what Russia and Africa is doing, these country [sic] have morals and are listening to their majorities.”

Mr Hotham said the information was volunteered by Mr Steiner during an email exchange.

The student published the interview on his WordPress blog, but was then contacted by the Straight Pride UK press officer asking him to remove the piece within seven days or be threatened with a DMCA, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, takedown notice.

Mr Hotham refused to remove the post, and WordPress then proceeded with a DMCA takedown notice on 3 August.

The DMCA contains a provision mandating any company to instantly remove material if they are informed it breaches copyright.

Mr Hotham and Straight Pride UK are both based in Britain, but the law covers WordPress, the student’s American blogging platform.

Adam Rendle, an associate and copyright specialist at the law firm Taylor Wessing, told the Guardian that the DMCA is a law used intensively by the media and entertainment industries to pursue copyright breaches, however this is an example of DMCA being used to suppress legitimate criticism.

He said to the paper: “The DMCA system is structured so that the intermediary (WordPress in this case) is very likely to have the complained-about material taken down initially even though (a) the copyright owner appears to have consented to its copyright material being used and (b) one of the defences (fair dealing for the purposes of criticism or review) to copyright infringement may apply.”

Mr Rendle added: “It is for the user of the material (Oliver Hotham) to make his case to the intermediary and have the material reinstated which can take some time and may never happen.

“It is, of course, another example of a heavy-handed reaction to legitimate criticism causing more harm than the original criticism.”

In a statement, WordPress said it recognised that this was an abuse of the DMCA law.

“We think this was a case of abuse of the DMCA and we don’t think that taking it down was the right result,” said Paul Sieminski, general counsel for WordPress parent company Automattic. “It’s censorship using the DMCA.”

More: Americas, anti-gay group, anti-gay laws, blogger, blogging, Gay rights, homophobic laws, LGBT rights, President Vladimir Putin, putin, Russia, student, US, WordPress

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