A recent DMCA takedown request to the web hosting company “ServerBeach” resulted in the temporary denial of access to 1.45 million education related blogs. The notice regarded the website “Edublogs” which hosted all the blogs in question, all of which were housed on ServerBeach’s hardware. The subject of the notice was a questionnaire from 2007 which was under copyright protection in favour of a company going by the name of “Pearson”. ServerBeach, following the standard operating procedures where a takedown request is made, notified Edublogs of the alleged violation. Edublogs promptly sought out the infringing content and removed it from their site.
The story ought to have stopped at this point, however ServerBeach subsequently took the Edublogs servers offline on the 10th October, resulting in the sudden denial of access to 1.45 million blogs. ServerBeach have publically stated that the outage lasted roughly sixty minutes during which time they have stated that they were carrying out a vetting process to ascertain that the violation was, in fact, taken care of. Once they were certain that this was the case, the server was back in service.
Edublogs have vocally expressed their disappointment over the fact that ServerBeach was more amenable to Pearson’s lawyers as opposed to the needs of a long standing customer who pays them almost $7,000 a month. Another issue arose from the fact that Edublogs is based in Australia while ServerBeach is based in the US. The time difference caused the people at Edublogs to scramble in the late hours of the night to open a communication channel with ServerBeach, otherwise the shutdown, according to Edublogs, would have been indefinite.
On the other hand, Serverbeach was not without merit in its actions. The DMCA currently holds a web host jointly and severally liable with a copyright infringer if they do not act decisively on reports that they receive. With copyright lawsuits in the U.S. often yielding damages in the millions, it is understandable how any company would wish to avoid that eventuality. ServerBeach also stated publically that Edublogs had received the twenty-four hour takedown notice as early as the 26th September. Furthermore, subsequent notices were sent to Edublogs on both the 8th and 9th of October, both of which ServerBeach insists were never replied to.
Since blogs are a repository of user generated content, it is important that the administrators of such blogs remain vigilant that nothing illegal or harmful is carried out through their system. At the same time, taking down the entire system to ensure compliance comes across as a staggering reaction to the situation. Only a legal framework as efficient the DMCA could cause such swift action.