EFF Fighting Crook Over DMCA

    November 2, 2006
    WebProNews Staff

The potential for misuse of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act reared its head again as a controversial figure has used it to force the takedown of a Fox News screen capture of his image from a pair of websites.

To channel the spirit of Howard Beale in “Network,” the Electronic Frontier Foundation is mad as hell and they aren’t going to take it any more. They have followed up their fight against one company for abusing the DMCA by stepping in on behalf of another client.

This time, the EFF has targeted Michael Crook, purveyor of fake personal ads on the classifieds site Craigslist. Crook would assemble the information provided by men responding to what they thought was a woman seeking a casual encounter and post it on a site called Craigslist-Perverts.org.

Jeff Diehl, editor of the site 10 Zen Monkeys, published an article that criticized Crook. The article also included a photo of Crook; that photo was a screen cap of Crook being interviewed on Fox’s Hannity & Colmes.

Crook responded by forcing Diehl off of two web hosts with DMCA requests for the image to be taken down for copyright infringement. EFF has characterized both of those DMCA uses as bogus.

“This is yet another case of someone intentionally misusing copyright law to try to shut down legitimate debate on an issue of public interest,” said EFF Staff Attorney Jason Schultz. “Crook certainly doesn’t own the copyright to the news footage — Fox News does. Furthermore, a still shot of that footage, used as part of a commentary on the controversy surrounding him, is clearly a fair use. It’s hypocritical for such an outspoken figure like Crook to attack other speakers just because they disagree with him.”

The problem comes from the DMCA “safe harbor” provision. An Internet service provider can stay within the bounds of safe harbor by immediately taking down content questioned with a DMCA request. EFF considers Crook’s actions “intimidation,” and they are seeking damages from Crook for Diehl’s financial and personal expenses.

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David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business.