CBS News was already drawing a lot of flak online for the way its moderators handled Tuesday’s rowdy Democratic primaries debate – and then the network’s image took another hit as multiple streaming channels got taken down thanks to DMCA copyright notices apparently filed on its behalf by a fake entity called Praxis Political.
One of those affected was pundit and host David Pakman, who tweeted that CBS News “hired a high-priced political consulting firm (…) to shut down independent media commentary” of the debate.
— David Pakman (@dpakman) February 26, 2020
The copyright charge against these channels – including several Twitch streamers – is that they re-streamed CBS content without permission.
Among those who got suspended, either temporarily or permanently, were The Majority Report and The Chapo Trap House.
There are multiple potential problems with this course of action – if indeed taken by CBS News.
For one – if streamers had added their own commentary and/or opinion, their use of the material could be perfectly legal under the DMCA fair use rule.
That, however, made no difference one way or the other in the case of HighImpactFlix, one of the recipients of the takedown notices.
Got a community guidelines strike from @TeamYouTube YouTube while livestreaming the South Carolina debate tonight. Had to be a mistake…I know it's not against terms of service when commenting on political debates. Take a min. right to sub me on @bitchute
— HighImpactFlix (@HighImpactFlix) February 26, 2020
Some – like Trihex – tried going down the route of showing only subtitles and watching the debate along with their subscribers. Acceptable enough plot twist, right? Spoiler: Twitch banned the channel.
— StreamerBans (@StreamerBans) February 26, 2020
Back on Pakman’s Twitter, his followers made one final, big picture argument against such DMCA takedowns: they think primary debates aimed at helping pick a nominee that could potentially become the next US president should be considered information in the public interest, and accessible to all voters – instead of being restricted for reasons of copyright and financial gain by a news corporation.
In a subsequent tweet, Pakman observed that “it may even be a fake/troll group not affiliated with CBS” that had sent the DMCA notices – and this has proven to be true.
At least on Twitch, a statement to Reclaim The Net confirmed that the “Praxis Political” claims were false and have reversed any bans that took place as a result of their actions:
“Twitch’s investigation has determined that the alleged copyright infringement notices directed to channels from Praxis Political are false. Twitch is reinstating access to each account and removing any strike attributed to a channel in connection with the notice, effective immediately. We regret that a false notice from a 3rd party disrupted any of our streamers and appreciate all who alerted us to the concerns about Praxis Political. The safety of our community is a top priority and it is unacceptable to target folks with false claims. The investigation continues as to the actor that submitted the notices.”
A Twitter user’s reaction to a post by one of the suspended Twitch streams, BadBunny, had the same thought.
this is ridiculous, and the saddest part is i don't even hold any hope twitch will recognize the obvious fake nature of the domain/company
just as we were getting into prime hat content as well pic.twitter.com/DVAYLI7IbW
— tulpa (@tu1pa) February 26, 2020
Praxis Political (https://praxispol.carrd.co) is as of the time of this writing no more than an unavailable page on Carrd.
Either way, the real news here is the flawed mechanics behind the DMCA copyright claims system that have once again been laid bare.
In order to protect themselves, platforms must – and earnestly do – shoot first (at creators, not at bad actors) – and ask questions later. If ever.