Time for DMCA reform
Web Tips by Donald Burleson
The web has become the wild west, with Internet publishers
freely publishing damaging information about corporations and
private citizens. Under the guise of freedom of speech and
the protection of the Digital Millennium Communications Act
(DMCA), anonymous bloggers and chat room contributors freely
publish lies and defame people.
The DMCA was designed to protect
web hosting services and ISP's and not specific web publishers,
bloggers or chat room participants. In
this article, a Judge Fadeley notes that offering DMCA
protection to bloggers and web authors is a serious loophole in
the DMCA, and that new legislation is required to make bloggers
responsible for damage to people.
"The courts must walk a fine
line between a federal statute interpreted as creating
immunity and the responsibility for the harm caused by
Unfortunately, many innocent companies are being damaged by
individuals out for profit or self-promotion. Even in
instances where legitimate organizations have been seriously
damaged by bloggers, it's difficult to counter unfounded
attacks or to demand the actual sources, let alone seek the
protections of the law."
More disturbing, studies suggest
that the majority of corporate defamation is done by business
"Web logs are the prized
platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty, but
spewing lies, libel and invective," wrote Daniel Lyons in
Forbes. Some 50 percent to 60 percent of blog attacks are
now sponsored by business rivals"
This article goes on to note
that the courts are recognizing blogs and chat rooms as
legitimate publishing, and they should not be protected by the
DMCA, simply because of their choice for publishing media:
"Journalists are held to account for what they say,
whether or not they are quoting someone else. Unfortunately,
the law has yet to create reasonable standards for the
Internet and allows anyone to quote any source, with almost
no liability for what they say.
The impact on innocent parties can be severe -- some
companies have lost millions in stock value from an irate
individual speaking anonymously as an expert on a blog
soapbox, making statements intended to be read as fact,
although they may be nothing more than the venom generated
by a personal and perhaps unjustified grievance."
See my related notes
on internet publishing:
I also highly recommend the book
Stalkers: Protect yourself from Internet Criminals & Psychopaths,
$19.95 by Rampant TechPress.