Nov 23, 2015 · 2 minutes

A couple of weeks back, Indiegogo health-scammers Tellspec filed the first of a series of DMCA takedown notices to try to prevent us from reporting on their misleading and possibly even fraudulent campaign.

The attempt failed: We simply shifted the documents over to AWS. But it showed how easy it is for a company to abuse the DMCA process in order to censor journalism: The company almost immediately filed a second takedown attempt against AWS, forcing us to file a counter notice before Amazon took any steps to disable the documents.

The problem echoes one faced by filmmakers. YouTube recently announced plans to provide legal support to producers hit by baseless DMCA claims. According to the Guardian:

It will now offer legal support to “a handful of videos” which Google (YouTube’s parent company) believes represent “clear fair uses”. It will also feature them in a special section of the site dedicated to showcasing strong examples of fair use.

The move will help defend against abuse of the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which allows for putative copyright holders to demand a site take down user generated content or face expensive lawsuits. Although the law attempts to balance the needs of copyright holders, platform owners, and those uploading new works to sites such as YouTube, it is frequently abused to demand the takedown of works the copyright holder has no legal authority over.

As YouTube’s copyright legal director, Fred von Lohmann, told the Guardian, the company is acting because “creators can be intimidated by the DMCA’s counter notification process, and the potential for litigation that comes with it”.

Here at Pando we decided not to be intimidated by Tellspec’s utterly baseless DMCA attempt. Instead we filed a counter notice to Amazon and published an article describing the threat and pointing out that Tellspec could face a charge of perjury if a court held that they had knowingly filed a false takedown notice.

Sure enough, this past Friday we received an utterly unsurprising update from Scribd: Tellspec has declined to file any supporting documentation to back up their DMCA notice and, as a result, Scribd has reactivated the documents. This time they’ll stay up.

In related news, Tellspec has updated its Indiegogo page, confirming that it has indefinitely suspended shipping of its beta devices.

We had to recall some of the beta units due to battery problems, and we are actively addressing the issue, which actually involved firmware and hardware upgrades. We are sorry about this; shipping will resume once this gets resolved. 

Indiegogo has repeatedly declined to comment on Tellspec’s continued shipping delays. Tellspec did not respond to a request for comment. We’ve reached out to Paypal to ask if they’ll be approving any refund requests filed by disgruntled Tellspec backers – I’ll update this post if I hear back.