February’s Irish election added another chapter to the absurdly long history of desperate copyright censorship. Youtube user DublinDilettante posted “Green Party PPB: The Honesty Remix” to express his frustration at the Irish Green Party’s abandonment of its platform and shift to the right. The Greens have been condemned elsewhere for colluding with the right-wing Fianna Fáil party to borrow from IMF for a corporate bailout, and for supporting neoliberal policies such as cuts to unemployment benefits.
The Irish Greens responded by sending a takedown notice to Youtube, who promptly removed the remix. Right now the remix is no longer viewable online, but you can click here to watch the original Green Party video. The fair use provision in U.S. copyright law protects transformative remixes that criticize their source material, which means it would be legal for Youtube to host such critical remixes on their U.S. website. Ireland’s copyright law also contains a fair dealing provision that protects critical uses of copyrighted material, but it seems the Irish Greens were not especially concerned with this detail.
This is an old story. The EFF won their first case against copyright censorship in 2004, when they helped sue Diebold for misusing copyright to silence bloggers who reported defects in Diebold voting machines. The EFF and others have won numerous cases since, including some that have been levelled at video remixes.
But despite over 6 years of victories against copyright censorship, it remains an acceptable option for many institutions that don’t feel like dealing with free speech or fair use. There is no justification for allowing such longstanding misuse of copyright law. A minimum first step would be to eliminate “notice and takedown” laws which reward copyright abusers for their lies with immediate and unquestioned content removal.
Proposed remedies to this censorship include laws that would require a court order before content is taken down for infringement, or “notice-and-notice” provisions which would allow accused remixers to dispute infringement allegations before their work is removed. There is no shortage of solutions to stopping copyright abuse, only an lack of political will.