We recently wrote about the fight over copyright/fair use in political videos. In the comments, someone anonymous pointed us to a YouTube page including a typical takedown notice.. Here’s a screenshot.
This is actually the first time I can recall that I’ve seen a takedown that had “multiple” takedown notices. So it’s interesting that YouTube even has such an error message. But what really caught my attention was the second claimant listed. United States Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security?
Issuing copyright takedowns? For what it’s worth, the commenter who submitted this pointed us to another video, which they claim is the same as what was taken down. I have no idea if it’s the same video or not, but it is some idiotic conspiracy mongering, taking one comment from a reporter completely out of context, and pretending President Obama said it, when he did not. I never understand conspiracy theories like that, but that’s really neither here nor there.
The real question is why is Homeland Security issuing takedowns? Works produced by the federal government, of course, can’t have copyright. However, it is possible for the government to hold copyrights — mainly if someone else gets it and assigns it to the government. So it’s possible that happened here, though it still seems like a strange move. If the video is the same as the other one pointed to, it’s just conspiracy theory claptrap, and I don’t see why DHS would even bother issuing a takedown.
But, even if we assume that the copyright itself and the takedown were legit, does this seem reasonable at all? Having a government agency directly using a copyright claim to take down a video? Especially when that group is DHS — in which national internet censor ICE exists. Giving it the power to censor videos too just seems like it’s going way too far. It’s not as if Homeland Security is going to bring the work “to market” to make money, so it’s not like there’s an “impact on the market” for the work. The only reason to issue the takedown — no matter how accurate the claim is — is to silence speech. A government organization using a government-granted monopoly to stifle speech may be all too common, but that doesn’t mean it should pass by unremarked upon.
I reached out to people at YouTube to see if they could explain why DHS appears to be issuing DMCA takedowns, and got back the equivalent of a “no comment.” I also reached out to Homeland Security, who at first seemed interested in looking into the details and then completely stopped responding to emails. Having not received further communication from them in over a week at this point, I’m just going with the post as is, in the hopes that maybe someone out there can explain why the federal government is using copyright to censor speech?