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Single DMCA Notice Takes Down 1.45 Million Educational Blogs

Posted by: , 14:02 AEDT, Thu October 18, 2012

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A single blog posts takes down the entire blog and 1.45 million other blogs, as "stupid DMCA policy" disables educational resource used by thousands of teachers and students
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Image/Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee @ Flickr, CC

In another example of copyright over-sensitivity, a DMCA notice for a single blog post from 5 years ago has managed to take another 1.45 million blogs with it.

It all started with a copy of Beck's Hopelessness Scale that was posted back in 2007 on one of the 1.45 million blogs hosted by educational website Edublogs, used by institutions including Cornell and Stanford. The 20 year-old questionnaire helps people to identify early signs of depression with the aim of preventing suicides, and has been posted by one of the teachers that uses Edublogs to reach out to students. 

The copyright of the questionnaire is owned by Pearson, and when they submitted a DMCA take-down request for the 2007 upload to be taken down, what happened next was entirely unexpected by the people who run Edublogs.

James Farmer, the founder of Edublogs, was no doubt exasperated to find out that their web hosting company, ServerBeach, decided that the best course of action in regarding to one page out of countless millions was to take down everything, and within 12 hours of sending the first and only notice to Edublogs. 

"... our hosting company, ServerBeach, to whom we pay $6,954.37 every month to host Edublogs, turned off our webservers, without notice, less than 12 hours after issuing us with a DMCA email," Farmer wrote on his blog.

"Because one of our teachers, in 2007, had shared a copy of Beck’s Hopelessness Scale with his class, a 20 question list, totalling some 279 words, published in 1974, that Pearson would like you to pay $120 for."

ServerBeach has since claimed that notices had been sent to Edublogs over a period of 10 days, but Farmer states that none of these notices were ever received, and no phone call was ever made despite ServerBeach having contact information readily available.

But ServerBeach's DMCA policy appears to make it clear that, other than filing a counter-notification in the case of a mistaken notice, that the only other course of action on ServerBeach's part would be to disable the entire account. This appears to be at odds with the DMCA take-down process, which is designed to allow take-downs to happen without further repercussion. But in this case, ServerBeach appears to take action of its own above and beyond what is necessary for a reasonable DMCA policy.

"Seems like a bad case of judge, jury and executioner… and an even worse case of stupid automated systems and utter ignorance of your customers," writes Farmer.

Edublogs is now back online. Having worked with ServerBeach for years, Farmer still wants to stay with the web host that the Edublogs team "have done great things with". "I just want them to have a less stupid DMCA policy."


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