Scientology critics fight YouTube takedown notices

Net users are fighting back against attempts to remove content critical of the Church of Scientology (CoS) from YouTube.

American Rights Counsel LLC, apparently acting on behalf of the Church of Scientology, sent 4,000 DMCA takedown notices to YouTube late last week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation reports. The notices allege copyright infringement over clips critical of the Church of Scientology.

YouTube is legally obliged to respond to such notices regardless of their merits, and as a result numerous videos were pulled. These included the BBC documentary Scientology and Me and clips posted by anti-Scientology collective Anonymous. Many accounts were suspended over the weekend as a result of the action.

Critics of Scientology have responded with DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) counter-notices, leading to the restoration of many of the affected videos and suspended channels. Some speculate that at least part of the reason for the pro-Scientology legal offensive is an attempt to uncover the real identity of critics of the church.

Further info:

Bogus anti-Scientology DMCA notices sent to YouTube linked to Wikipedia user

YouTube may be rethinking their process for handling DMCA takedown notices this week, after receiving thousands of bogus notices alleging illegal content on the site. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), over a period of 12 hours, from Thursday night to Friday morning, YouTube received over 4000 notices, all for content critical of the Church of Scientology.

The notices were sent from an organization by the name of American Rights Counsel, LLC. However, Scientology detractors associated with the group Anonymous noted that no such limited liability corporation exists in the U.S. and that the text of the takedown notices is virtually identical to previous efforts from Wikipedia contributor oschaper, thought to be someone named Oliver Schaper (oschaper on Wikipedia and message boards). It’s possible that this individual was behind the notices, also filed by another apparently non-existent entity called ContentFactory America.

YouTube has yet to comment on the issue, and many of the accounts and videos pulled over the weekend have now been restored after those affected filed counter claims. However, the guilty-until-proven innocent method of dealing with notices like this may have to be re-evaluated. While filing a false DMCA notice is a criminal offense, prosecution in these cases rarely comes about.