Copyright enforcement in a nutshell: make the Internet hard work and less fun until people give up

The Internet is amazing, but it’s not perfect. There are many aspects that are unsatisfactory – its protocols are inefficient, and it is far from resilient. The InterPlanetary File System, created in 2014, aims to address some of these deficiencies. On its main site it is described as:

A peer-to-peer hypermedia protocol designed to preserve and grow humanity’s knowledge by making the web upgradeable, resilient, and more open

Like the Internet itself, IPFS is a technology that can be used for a wide variety of purposes. A post on TorrentFreak from earlier this year explains:

It allows archivists, content creators, researchers, and many others to distribute large volumes of data over the Internet. It’s censorship resistant and not vulnerable to regular hosting outages.

IPFS is also a perfect match for ‘pirate’ sites. Due to its decentralized nature, IPFS sites are virtually impossible to shut down.

A more recent post on TorrentFreak reveals how the copyright industry is trying to attack IPFS by attacking gateways to it. Specifically, it concerns the IPFS gateway at operated as a free service for the benefit of the online world by James Stanley. In a recent blog post, he writes:

I received 3 DMCA takedown emails today, covering 7350 URLs on my IPFS gateway. The URLs were allegedly serving infringing copies of books. The strange part is that of those 7350 URLs, during the time for which I have [the Web server] nginx logs, none of them have ever been accessed, and of the ones that I checked, none even worked.


Copyright infringing material or activity could not have been found at those locations because in order to find it you must have accessed it, and since my logs show that nobody accessed it, we can infer that Gareth Young, Internet Investigator [who appears to have sent the DMCA takedowns], can not have found it.

Despite this fact, Stanley has decided – not unreasonably – that he has had enough of being harassed for magnanimously trying to offer a service for free:

I have now taken down completely because dealing with this sort of thing makes it less fun to run and more like hard work

He ends his post by wondering whether the DMCA takedowns he received would be classed as “fraudulent”, and asks, if so, what can be done about it. Sadly, the answer is almost certainly: nothing. There seem to be no penalties for fraudulent DMCA claims, which require simply a “good faith belief” that copyright has been infringed, according to the law. By contrast, counter-claims made by recipients of takedowns must include a statement “under penalty of perjury” that the material was taken down by mistake.

That blatant asymmetry is a great demonstration of how the enforcement system is tilted in favour of copyright companies, and against the general public who so often are framed as its enemies. It means that a constant drip of bogus takedowns can be used to wear down the goodwill and patience of online benefactors like James Stanley until they give up in frustration. We are all the poorer as a consequence.

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