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DMCA Abuse & How Anonymity Protects Free Expression

by | Feb 28, 2023 | First Amendment

Have you ever been served a DMCA Takedown Notice? This legal tool was created by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act in 1998 to protect intellectual property on the internet. But decades down the road, we’ve seen that some internet users experience DMCA abuse – tactics that chill speech or uncover anonymous speech, which is protected by the first amendment.

One notable case came up against the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, a Jehovah’s Witness group. 

They claimed that critical online texts were copyright infringement, and they issued subpoenas attempting to extract the identity of the anonymous Reddit user who wrote the criticism. The attempt did not succeed.

Another recent case ended up in favor of protection for an anonymous Twitter user.

The user posted critical photos of a private-equity billionaire – photos that happened to be copyrighted. 

The copyright owner made a similar move after sending a DMCA Takedown Notice: They went a step further and tried to use a DMCA subpoena to learn the real identity of the user from Twitter.

What’s the First Amendment problem with this? Anonymous speech is protected and should not be easily unmasked by meritless claims of copyright infringement.

I represent news media, bloggers, publishers, and citizens interested in government access, and others who operate under the First Amendment—public records; public meetings; newsgathering; avoiding defamation lawsuits; suing Anti-SLAPP violators. My job is to help you get the records and access you need, help you get the story, help you get the story without getting arrested, help get the story published without defaming anyone, and then defend the story after publication. 

If you need help with any of these areas and don’t have an attorney already, contact me: [email protected]. This post is not intended to be legal advice and does not form the basis of a lawyer-client relationship.


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