Adland, the biggest commercial archive in the world, has been shut down after its host Vultr responded to a questionable Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) claim by telling Adland to remove its domain from the network within 24 hours.
Adland had been online since 1996 and was home to many notable archived commercial collections including its “47 years of Super Bowl Commercials.” It was also known for hosting ads and commercials that were banned or censored elsewhere. However, it’s long history and reputation as a commercial archive didn’t stop it being taken down via DMCA.
The DMCA is often criticized for giving publishers very little flexibility when responding to claims and requiring them to take content down before they can check if it’s actually infringing. Public interest lawyer Avani Singh says that the DMCA process poses a risk “both to free speech and procedural fairness.”
Adland says that around a month ago, it received a DMCA claim from a US law firm on an article which was written in 2003 and featured a Thai Bridgestone ad from 2002. Adland says that it contested this claim and then over a month later, it was told by its web host Vultr to “remove the domain adland.tv from our network within 24 hours.”
The ad featured in the article was titled “A Dog’s Life” and was created by the advertising agency BBDO Bangkok. According to Adland’s now removed article (archive link), this ad won silver at the Asia Pacific Adfest in 2003.
The ad is still available on LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube which has led to Adland questioning why its article was targeted by this DMCA claim.
In the notice that Vultr sent to Adland, Holland & Hart LLP, the law firm filing the claim, says that:
- Bridgestone commissioned the work through its Thai entity, Bridgestone Sale (Thailand) Co. Ltd., to a Thai ad agency (BBDO Bangkok) and that: “As a commissioned work, the work was a work for hire, meaning that copyright belongs to Bridgestone as the commissioner, whether the ad was ever made public or not.”
- “The vendor ad agency’s location in Thailand and the DMCA’s application to the United States are not obstacles to Bridgestone’s takedown-request as international copyright law also applies to this dispute.”
- The “video and text” on Adland’s page about the advert contains “unauthorized use of Bridgestone’s trademarks” which “constitutes infringement and violates the Lanham Act in the United States as well as other international trademark laws.”
Adland has disputed many of the claims from Holland & Hart LLP and says that there are “no Bridgestone trademarks in the Thai creative that Bridgestone does not own.” Adland also refuted the accusation that it had violated the Lanham Act:
“The Lanham Act (also known as the Trademark Act of 1946) is the federal statute that governs trademarks, service marks, and unfair competition. Adland is not in the business of making tires or anything else auto-related like Bridgestone, so it quite obviously doesn’t apply here.”
Additionally, Adland’s owner says that BBDO gave the site permission to host this ad in 2003.
For now, all that remains of Adland, outside of archived pages, is a notice explaining the situation and saying that: “Adland is temporarily shut down.”
The future of Adland is uncertain with its LinkedIn post on the situation saying:
“If we don’t find a solution in 24 hours, I don’t think I want to continue this any further. R.I.P Adland, the advertising archive of heaven and hell in the advertising world 1996-2019.”
On Twitter, Adland confirmed that it has secured a new host and moved data off of Vultr.
However, the owner isn’t sure whether the site will be coming back online.
Adland’s owner places the blame for the situation on the DMCA law rather than Vultr, saying: “It’s not Vultr’s fault that the DMCA law is bonkers, and should be abolished as it’s useless in protecting IP [intellectual property] and only useful as a censoring tool, though they are the first host to oust us as a paying client with such short notice. Very rude.”
The news of Adland’s takedown highlights how DMCA claims can be used to get content forcibly removed from the internet, regardless of the size, scope, or history of a website and often regardless of whether the claim is valid.