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Facebook copyright claims find users locked out with no recourse

Posted at 29 April 2011 08:00 CET by wconeybeer

Is Facebook taking notes on how to deal with copyright infringement accusations from US Immigration and Customs (ICE) enforcement officials? It certainly seems that way, as the social network’s response to complaints seems to closely resemble the government agency’s domain seizure tactics.

Since Ars Technica reporter Ken Fisher wrote about the company being locked out of their Facebook account with no warning or recourse because of an infringement complaint, several other users are beginning to chime in with their own similar tales.

“Facebook is so eager to protect copyright that the mere accusation of copyright infringement is enough to get an account locked,” Fisher reported Thursday morning. “Ars found this out the hard way Thursday morning when our own Facebook page became inaccessible, with no warning, no explanation, and no clear appeal process.”

“To make matters worse, Facebook is not responsive to inquiries about account lockout, and the company provides absolutely zero useful direction on how to rectify a complaint,” he added.

Ars is far from alone in their experience.

“I have had this happen twice now,” claims one commenter. “I am a professional photographer and I have been using Facebook to increase my business. This has been working great so far. The first time, I was the only admin of the fan page and my account got suspended (for what reason, I still do not know). And thus, my fan page was automatically assigned to some random ‘fan’ of the page. Of course they renamed it and stole all of my fans.”

“In one case, with Hamard Dar’s Rewriting Technology site, the page went down for over a month,” a representative of ReadWriteWeb told Ars reporters. “Dar says he was targeted for money. ‘He wanted me to pay him…to get the page back,’… Dar didn’t go for that option, however, because there was no guarantee the scammer would return the page once paid. Instead, Dar ran his own personal investigation until he discovered the person involved and threatened him to withdraw the complaint, saying he would report him to U.S. cyber crime enforcement (the scam artist lives in Chicago). The page was then returned.”

A Facebook spokesperson issued a statement to ReadWriteWeb about their questionable infringement claim responses:

We want Facebook to be a place where people can share and discuss openly while respecting the rights of others. We take seriously both the interests of people who post content and those of rights holders. We work to ensure that we don’t take content down as a result of fraudulent notices. However, when a rights holder properly completes our notice form alleging intellectual property (IP) infringement, we will take appropriate action including removing or disabling access to the relevant content. When we do this, we notify the person who shared the content so he or she can take appropriate action, which may include contacting the reporting party or following up with Facebook.

Submitting an IP notice is no trivial matter. The forms in our Help Center require statements under penalty of perjury, and fraudulent claims are subject to legal process.

Yes, intellectual property claims are certainly serious business, but locking a business out of their Facebook page for one complaint that may not even be valid doesn’t seem like a response that is either reasonable or centered in acceptable “legal process.”

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There are 6 comments

Dedicated DoMi groupie
Posted on: 29 Apr 11 10:42
    Strange, I thought that Facebook originated from a bunch of pirates...
    If I'm to believe the movie, one of the exercises to get a job there was to drink beer and hack a server to root, and wasn't Sean Parker the leader of that most famous pirating program Napster? How quickly attitudes change when it comes to gaining their own profits.
    Senior Administrator & Reviewer
    Posted on: 29 Apr 11 11:01
      I think the best thing a small business can do is invest a small sum into buying a domain and getting someone to design their website where fans can become members independent of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, etc. Then use social websites as a way of adding on, rather than relying on one as their only or main means of advertising or getting fans.

      With a domain, unless you are suspect of large copyright infringement (e.g. linking to movie downloads), chances are that you'll get several warnings about an individual copyright infringement before the website is shutdown, where as I'm sure with Facebook, someone who complains about their work being used such as a copyright background image will result in the account being suspended. Even if a paid hosting account is suspended, I'm sure it is easier dealing with the hosting provider's support than Facebook support, especially when you're a paying customer.
      Posted on: 29 Apr 11 15:55
        Err, Ken Fisher is not a reporter at Ars Technica, he is the former owner and still general manager of the site since they sold the business to Conde Nast Digital.
        Senior Moderator
        Posted on: 29 Apr 11 15:56
          ...and wasn't Sean Parker the leader of that most famous pirating program Napster?
          Shawn Fanning
          Dedicated DoMi groupie
          Posted on: 29 Apr 11 17:36
            you're right, I gotta brush up on my Wikipedia skillz. I guess the movie confused me...
            MyCE Resident
            Posted on: 29 Apr 11 19:51
              Originally Posted by iamrocket
              If I'm to believe the movie, one of the exercises to get a job there was to drink beer and hack a server to root, and wasn't Sean Parker the leader of that most famous pirating program Napster? How quickly attitudes change when it comes to gaining their own profits.
              I guess you don't realize that the "Social Network" movie is a piece of fiction? That story is made up. There are definitely some partial truths in there, but the story is considered fiction.

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