Few legal notices are as publicly maligned — or misused — as the DMCA takedown request. For every legitimate request to remove a pirated file or page, it sometimes feels like there's another inadvertent trampling of fair use, accidental overreach that targets a swathe of legitimate sites, or deliberate attempt to suppress debate on the pretext of copyright infringement. Earlier this week, photography site DigitalRev said it was the victim of DMCA-related censorship — all because of an assessment of GoPro's new camera. But GoPro insists its intention was never to shut down reviews.
"It appears that we'll need their authorisation to review their products."
DigitalRev, which both runs an online camera store and offers a social network for photography fans, posted a comparison between the GoPro Hero 3 and a competing Sony action camera. According to a screenshot of the now-removed page, the review was fairly innocuous: GoPro's section was entitled "The Hero has become even better," and the overall tone was either factual or laudatory. But on March 19th, the site received a takedown notice from GoPro, including a request that it "remove or disable access" to infringing material on the page. The material? Trademarks for "GoPro" and "Hero."
While the site took down the page, it wrote a blog post protesting the decision: "This is clearly an eye-opener for us here. It appears that we'll need their authorisation to review their products." On its face, the takedown notice was baffling. GoPro, however, insists that the whole thing was a mistake. "It's an unfortunate miscommunication," wrote a GoPro employee on Reddit earlier today before posting the following statement:
The letter that was posted next to the review on DigitalRev was not sent in response to the review. Obviously, we welcome editorial reviews of our products. This letter was sent because DigitalRev is not an authorized reseller of GoPro products and they were using images and had incorrect branding and representation of our product in their online commerce store. As part of our program — we ask merchants who are selling our product to use authorized images. That is why DigitalRev was contacted. But — our letter did not clearly communicate this and that is something we will correct.
Redditors quickly critiqued the post, asking why the letter included a link to the review and whether GoPro was "using [its] promo materials/logo as a DMCA bomb" to justify the takedown. DigitalRev doesn't appear to have posted the letter in full, so it's not completely clear if more details were included. Essentially, though, GoPro is saying that it's not trying to get the review taken down, it's trying to get DigitalRev to stop using its branding and photos on its gray-market store. Considering that the review hardly seemed negative, that would certainly make more sense than an attempt to "require authorization." Even if GoPro meant no harm, though, the ambiguous takedown request won't do it or the DMCA any favors.