We see more than our fair share of bogus DMCA and intellectual property takedowns around these parts. Hell, there are so many that at one point a website was created strictly to keep a running tally of these things, though that site appear to no longer exist. That said, there are bogus takedowns, and then there are bogus takedowns, and this is the story of one example of the latter and the silliness of the take down first and ask questions later attitude sites take these days.
Tumblr is rife with GIFs. We all know this. Tumblr claims that those that have takedowns filed against them will have their material removed first, but will be provided all the relevant information on the takedown so that they can figure out what happened. Tumblr also claims that real-life human beings review each of these requests to ensure they’re legitimate. If that’s true, then Tumblr needs to explain why a bunch of GIF artists are having their material removed at the behest of the purported true copyright owner, a future-alien being channeled by a present homosapien named Darryl Anka.
Darryl Anka telepathically channels a space alien from the future named Bashar who lives on the planet Essassani; on this basis, he has claimed many copyright infringements in the creations of Tumblr’s GIF artists. The “trained members” of Tumblr’s Trust and Safety team who “reviewed” these claims decided they were sufficient grounds for action, and promptly removed the offending GIFs, sending emails to the artists who’d posted them explaining what had happened. Each artist received a “strike” against them under Tumblr’s three-strikes-and-you’re-terminated policy.
Look, I’m the last person who wants to go around offending the sensibilities of the great nation-planet of Essassani. After all, we may need their military assistance to fight against The Reapers years in the future once we’ve attained intergalactic travel and all that. But still…what the shit? This is almost enough to make me wonder if this whole episode was specifically designed to throw shade on Tumblr and its likely false claims about how and who is reviewing these takedown notices. Some of the GIF artists in question are equally flabbergasted.
The claim is that my work is in fact copyrighted by “Bashar channeled by Darryl Anka” What? I looked it up. Darryl Anka believes that he is channeling information from a space alien from the future named Bashar that lives on a planet called Essassani via telepathy. Cool story bro. What exactly is the legal basis for their claim? Maybe it has something to do with “ ” ? Is that some kind of alien code? Or did Tumblr just auto copy and paste the email they got including stray HTML garbage characters? What is the evidence? “The copyrighted works can be found at www.basharstore.com/.” I clicked that link. There’s no GIFs on it. There’s nothing that resembles anything on my blog. Again, Tumblr’s policy states “Each claim is reviewed by a trained member of our Trust and Safety team.” I find it difficult to impossible to believe that actually happened.
Here’s my conclusion: Tumblr’s DMCA takedown system is fully automated and “trained members” do not in fact review anything. Or, embarrassingly someone did look at all of that “evidence” and decided that aliens from other planets have legal rights on Earth and that even though a copy of the alleged infringing work is not on the site provided, they’ll just take Darryl’s word for it?
Several things went wrong here. First, this is what you get in a “takedown first” scenario: nonsense claims that are given the benefit of the doubt to the detriment of legitimate speech/art/whatever. Add to that the embarrassment of Tumblr’s review process claim being completely debunked and you can imagine how pissed off these artists are. And, finally, we have what is either an impressively creative troll or someone with a mind that broke somewhere around the fourth season of The X-Files a decade ago. And, coming full circle, keep in mind that that’s the person getting the benefit of the doubt in the DMCA process.
It’s time we did this differently, valuing the speech of the many over the restrictions wished for by the few. Even if amongst those few is Bashar, the alien from the future.