Liberty Hangout, a “libertarian media outlet” which is the official home of Kent State “gun girl” Kaitlin Bennett, has requested a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) subpoena that would force Google to hand over information about the YouTube commentary and news channels Philip DeFranco, The Young Turks, ImAllexx, Sam Collins, Roly, Jammidodger, Kristina Maione, and American Freedom World Peace.
The DMCA subpoena request obtained by Reclaim The Net lists nine videos from these channels that react to, criticize, and make fun of Bennett and include brief clips from some of her Liberty Hangout videos.
These types of reaction videos are common among commentary and news channels on YouTube and are usually protected under fair use – a provision in copyright law that allows people to use copyrighted material without permission from the copyright holder.
Commentary and reaction videos will often qualify for fair use because the commentary or reaction adds a new expression to the work and they generally only take small clips from the original work.
This fair use protection is essential for allowing public and newsworthy figures to be criticized because most of the time, the subject of criticism isn't going to give explicit permission for their work to be used.
In this instance, the DMCA subpoena was requested after Liberty Hangout sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube on May 12.
The video from American Freedom World Peace has been taken down but the other eight videos listed in both the DMCA takedown notice and DMCA subpoena request are currently still up.
According to commentator Kristina Maione, YouTube emailed her after the original DMCA takedown notice and stated:
“We believe your content is protected by fair use, fair dealing, or a similar exception to copyright protection. We are writing to let you know we do not plan to remove your videos at this time.”
This DMCA subpoena request doesn't specifically list the information it wants Google to hand over but is asking for information that would allow Liberty Hangout to “learn the identity of the individuals” behind these channels.
In the US, subpoenas usually require a judge's review or formal litigation to be issued but DMCA subpoenas can be taken to any federal district court in the country and signed off by a clerk.
Liberty Hangout's DMCA takedown notice and subsequent DMCA subpoena request are the latest of many examples of copyright law being used to target and censor creators.
A few days ago, video game critic Whitaker used DMCA to censor videos of him making distasteful jokes and filmmaker Michael Moore's documentary Planet of the Humans was censored on YouTube after a copyright claim took it down for using just four seconds of footage.
Jehovah's Witness' publisher Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has also used DMCA subpoena's several times in an attempt to unmask anonymous critics on both Reddit and YouTube.
Under the current system, there is little protection for creators who are the subject of false or questionable DMCA takedown notices and subpoenas. Fair use has to be decided in court, the DMCA subpoena process allows creators' private information to be handed over without a lawsuit, and there are very few repercussions for those who abuse the system.