First of all, I would like to invite you to follow me on Twitter!
On Friday morning, October 9th 2015, I was busy getting ready for what was an already heavy weekend. I was on the guest list for two weddings; my cousin was getting married that afternoon and my college roommate would be getting married Saturday night. Beyond all of these events my husband’s father was on day two in the cardiac unit of an upstate hospital. We had traveled far, missed work and we were tired. I tried to focus on the positive happy things in life.
That was the last tweet I ever tweeted as @MarieGossip.
I put down Twitter for the night and enjoyed the evening out. We spent the next morning at the hospital and then headed off to wedding number two. Both weddings were a great time. We ended up in Connecticut for the second, and stayed until midnight. When I finally made it back to my room, mind and feet ready for bed, I checked my email out of habit. I turned off my Gmail notifications in August thanks to one of my awesome Twitter followers, so every now and then I would peek and see what had come in.
I was very surprised to see two emails from firstname.lastname@example.org stating that my account had been temporarily suspended as a warning. Totally clueless as to what this meant, I assumed it was a mistake that would be sorted by tomorrow. I went to bed and didn’t revisit the issue until the trip back to NY in the morning.
I had the car ride to read and re-read the generic emails from Twitter. Clearly my account had been reported for copyright violation of some nature. However, the email stated that there was an “attached DMCA notice,” yet nothing was attached to the email. So I was really in the dark. The second email, sent 7 minutes after the first had a little more detail.
I responded to the second longer and most recent email Twitter sent me asking for some more information as the email seemed incomplete. I also did a bit of digging to learn more about Twitter and DMCA take down notices. If you are not aware, here is the actual Digital Millennium Copyright Act and here is Wikipedia's breakdown of it.
"On October 12, 1998, Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The law became effective in October 2000 and it has been incorporated into the Copyright Act (Title 17 of the U. S. Code). This landmark legislation updated U.S. copyright law to meet the demands of the Digital Age and to conform U.S. law to the requirements of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and treaties that the U.S. signed in 1996."¹
According to Twitter's Copyright and DMCA Policy, I should have received an actual DMCA Take Down notice from Twitter detailing the offending tweet(s). Here is the second email I received from Twitter with my response:
"Your account has been suspended for reposting material that has been removed in response to the attached DMCA takedown notice"Yet...
1) I didn't repost any material, my account had been suspended and I can't tweet from it.
2) There was no take down notice attached.
So I waited.
Suddenly I couldn’t ask my colleagues, friends and followers questions like, what should I do next? I no longer had any followers! It is a bit maddening to have a network of friendly, interesting and intelligent people taken away from you. Since 2009 I had grown a sizable professional network on Twitter.
Each day I asked my husband, seriously what do I do next? He took on a Mr. Darcy-like approach and told me not to worry, that we would figure out what is going on and get the account back. He has a verified account and we hoped this would at least help get a response from Support.
|Mr. Darcy is about to pull connections to help Lizzy's predicament. Pride and Prejudice. Directed by Sue Birtwistle. A & E Home Video, 1995. Film.|
It seemed reasonable. I am a reasonable, professional person using my account for education, spreading the love and joy of art history to the masses…that is why I started the whole account. I though - Of course my little account would be restored! I just had to be patient. Meanwhile my husband was awesome and reached out to his own followers to see if anyone could assist. At this point Twitter Support was not responsive at all.
I commented to Heather about how awesome Ford customer support was on Twitter – quick responses and helpful. How ironic that using Twitter to contact Twitter Support gets you nowhere.
While I (im)patiently waited around for Twitter Support to get back to me, I logged back into an old account I had once created for a college course. I think most people have that one-time early account which is probably why names like @laurenmarie @artlibrarian and @marie_gossip were all already taken. (The last one is the most upsetting.)
By reviving my old account, I could tweet (to no one really) and view some tweets that were happening. Mostly I was searching my old account, and looking at people who had tried to tweet at me as @MarieGossip since my suspension. That is when I saw a weird tweet.
While my husband was tweeting trying to get Twitter to help me out, a company responded to one of his tweets, simply saying “Infringement.” Well great, anyone that put two and two together for DCMA Take Down Notices could figure that out. But, did I mention I am a librarian? This was enough to get searching.
The company that tweeted to my husband was @RemovePiracy, a Twitter account belonging to Remove Your Media, LCC. Clearly this company also kept a search of @MarieGossip, otherwise they never would have seen my husband's tweet. I was able to do a search on Chilling Effects to see just what kind of stuff Remove Your Media, LLC was going after on Twitter. Turns out, lots of stuff. This company is one of the top reporters of DMCA Take Down Notices for Twitter, not to mention Google. Between January 1 - June 30, 2015, they had submitted 2,122 Take Down requests to Twitter. I recognized one of the links they appeared to be reporting.
Further research showed they have been submitting DMCA Take Down Requests since at least 2011. They had been in the news before too. One article said:
"This month [September 2013], Remove Your Media is ranked #6 in the world....And for any K-Drama fans out there, Remove Your Media also represents the biggest film/tv studios in South Korea."²
It was clear that this company was the one that reported my account, and they must have been running a search on @MarieGossip to even notice my husband's tweet. I responded to this account asking what the infringing content was, I wanted a real answer even though I pretty much knew. They gladly responded:
REMOVE YOUR CONTENT TELLS ME WHAT'S UP
@LPartist @twitter Illegal Korean drama streaming sites, contributory infringement https://t.co/IzystBEBOL— Remove Your Media (@removepiracy) October 14, 2015
I am a K-Drama fan. Earlier in the year I had been watching some Korean dramas with friends on sites such as DramaFever (a totally legit site). We set up a time, usually 8pm, that we would get together to ‘virtually’ watch the shows together, since we live in different states, It was fun. It was innocent. I tweeted something like this for each episode:
But then there were other sites I was introduced to and tweeted links to one in particular that was apparently not so legit. I have since looked at that site and even its disclaimer which makes things murky; I suspect many, like myself, would not know the site was actually providing infringing content.
|Screen grab of a disclaimer page|
So here it is.
For posting a tweet that included a link to a website that displayed copyrighted material or made copyrighted material available for download, I was guilty of “contributory infringement.”
Or – for posting a tweet that included a link to a website that “operates as an index and database of content found publicly available on the internet” to content hosted on yet other websites, I was guilty of “contributory infringement” and reported and suspended. Who knows.
Two days later @RemovePiracy tweeted a definition of "contributory infringement" and proceeded to favorite their own tweet. But here is a definition pulled from Chilling Effects, "an independent 3rd party research project studying cease and desist letters concerning online content."
What a mess.
Now I understand the issue, I get it. I am aware of copyright, fair use, intellectual property rights.
As Courtney Stodden would say, I am rehl and had anyone alerted me that I was somehow infringing on their intellectual property I would have gladly removed the offending content.
I was totally happy to remove these tweets, beyond the fact that they were now many months old (January 2015, April 2015) and not important to me in any way. I am not out to promote piracy and I am not out to damage broadcasting companies. I am a historian! I tried to search back through my account and delete the offending tweets but that action, "cannot be performed with a suspended account." *eye roll* Of course not.
I broke down four days in, on October 14, and sent another email to Twitter. I sent it as a reply to the very first email they had sent me.
I continued to wait. That night I received the same automatic email two times in a row! They had the same case number and said the same thing, “Your account has been suspended for reposting material that has been removed in response to the attached DMCA takedown notice.”
My account had been suspended since October 10, so I obviously couldn't repost any infringing content. It made no sense. Nothing was attached, I had not received any DMCA takedown notices.
I replied to both of these automatic emails, asking for more information:
Then I employed real patience and waited for Twitter Support to get back to me. After all, sports site Deadspin broke news when their Twitter account was suspended on October 12. That account was restored hours later. Sure, they have an army of lawyers (or one really good legal department) but still.
On October 23rd I filed a suspended account appeal with Twitter. It was a last-resort I was saving. I instantly got an automatic response, at 11:33am, that asked me to reply to it so they knew I was real. I wasted no time.
At 16:48 I received what would be my final response from Twitter Support, and the only response I received that looks like a human wrote part of it. Here is the full exchange:
Eric Green of Remove Your Media, LLC submitted notices against 33 tweets from @MarieGossip stating that the infringing material (with the "copyright owner: ITMPA") was available for display or download at the linked site. ITMPA is an association.
Over the lifespan of my account, that accounted for .001% of my tweets. Twitter Support wrote:
“It seems that the DMCA notices against your account were not properly sent to you due to a bug. We apologize for the inconvenience, and will be sending a copy of all of these notices to this email address: email@example.com."³
A bug? I just lost my long-time Twitter account of seven years, I lost followers, friends, and colleagues. I lost analytics, statistics, a media collection, all the Twitter Lists I built and followed and an archive of favorited tweets and important links I wanted to revisit.
I can’t even request my Twitter archive because that action cannot be performed with a suspended account. My @MarieGossip account is now a statistic of one of the many Twitter accounts Remove Your Media, LLC has achieved suspension for, as can be see on this trophy video they posted. At least Twitter apologized for the inconvenience.
¹"DMCA: The Digital Millennium Copyright Act." ALA: American Library Association. Accessed October 24, 2015.
²"Stone & Vaughan Retained by Remove Your Media, LLC in Long-term Engagement." Stone & Vaughan Blog. September 4, 2013. Accessed October 24, 2015.
³Twitter Support, e-mail message to author, October 23, 2015.
@RemovePiracy has deleted their Twitter account. They have no current Twitter account listed on their website.
As for my own account, I have decided to delete tweets every month or so and use Twitter as an active conversation tool, reflecting my current interests.