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We've (Stack Exchange Inc.) recently received a DMCA takedown notice for several posts from this community. As a result of that, I'm taking down around 15 posts at this very moment (got a script running), but many more might need to be removed over the coming week. This means some reputation is probably gonna be lost, and also that some good content is gonna vanish. The DMCA process tells us we must notify the author of the content, which means the author of the questions will get a comment notifying them of the occurrence — however, whoever answered any of the deleted questions is just gonna be left wondering why they lost rep, and why the post was even deleted in the first place. So here I am, preemptively notifying the community as a whole as a courtesy.

So what can I do if my question was deleted due to this?

If you own one of the posts that were removed, you will have a comment left on it by me notifying you of why the post was deleted. You can then, if you believe you are the wrongful subject of a copyright takedown notice, file a DMCA counter-notice through the proper channels — and hopefully we'll be able to restore the content!

You can find the DMCA notice here, at Lumen database (or here, since Lumen lost the original one for some reason, and are trying to make this new one point to the older link).

Given that most of the posts are over 60 days old, they won't show up in your profiles at all — so feel free to reach out to the Community Team using /contact if you require any assistance.


Disclaimer: none of this is official legal guidance; it's just provided as a courtesy :)



Update: concerns & questions

BIG thanks to everyone who responded here - as you can probably tell, this isn't something we've had a lot of experience dealing with, so identifying areas for improvement is extremely helpful.

We're not done working on this. As you noticed, only 17 of the 190+ links have been removed as of this time, and we're hoping this whole thing will have a happy outcome. Hopefully, we'll be able to resolve this in a way that's acceptable to both the folks sending this take-down notice and the authors who've donated their time and knowledge here; as with most legal things, this isn't likely to be fast, but we'll do our best to keep you updated.

Here are the open questions you've asked that we're gonna try & figure out answers to. Again, no guarantees on when (or even if) we'll actually be able to do that - but, we're gonna try:

  • Who is responsible for DMCA takedown counterclaims on authorless / disassociated / CW posts?
  • Given that a lot of our content is collaborative, it’s not obvious who can legally challenge DMCA notices, so:
    • Who "owns" the content, and can file counter-notices?
    • A question author only?
    • Or is an answerer or editor entitled to that too?
  • Can the posts on which no action was taken (yet) be edited to try to minimize this (by editing out links or properly attributing images)?
  • Can the post owner edit their deleted post before filing the counter-claim to aid its validity?
  • Given the shared ownership of the content (asker, answerers, editors) who are we (SE) required to notify?
  • Are users who file a counter-notice required to give out details like their real name, or can they use their online pseudonym?
    • And how much of the information provided in the counter-notice will be made public vs how much of it will just be used internally to assess validity of the counter-notice?

Again, thank you all for your patience and insights.

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    The irony is that most of that content was probably driving more people to want to see and pay for it. It's like free advertising. – Jason C May 31 '17 at 14:44
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    @JasonC if you look at the 196 items submitted in the notice, it seems like some sloppy amateur job figuring out what's what. I suggest we wait this out and see what happens. – Hakase May 31 '17 at 14:45
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    Yeah it's super sloppy. Stuff like this or links to YT videos where the onus is on YT not on every site that links to it. Or entire tags. I hope SE doesn't just roll over here instead of defending at least some of this. Some of these can probably just be edited instead of outright deleted, too. – Jason C May 31 '17 at 14:48
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    Who can contest the tag pages? (A question I share) Would that be the original author of the tag info (example)? – Jason C May 31 '17 at 15:17
  • is that Lumen datrabase link correct? there are way more that 15 there and i have seen some of them have yet to be deleted (though might be in the process of being deleted) – Memor-X May 31 '17 at 22:15
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    @Memor-X yes it is correct. The notice is still under review, and more of the posts may be removed. – Logan M May 31 '17 at 22:47
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    To make it easier to see if your posts are in this list: I've created a list of all questions and tag wikis by author / editor, and a list of all answers by author / editor. Look at both lists, find your user name, and your posts will be listed there. If your username contains non-Latin characters, check the end of the lists, too. – Jason C Jun 1 '17 at 2:04
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    Are you serious right now? There isn't even any media! – Makoto Jun 1 '17 at 18:54
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    @Makoto chances are the whole thing is automated and there are no actual people checking the validity of these generated requests – Hakase Jun 1 '17 at 19:29
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    @Hakase: I can guarantee that these are automated. But that underpins the frustration with it. It's automated, but because of legal reasons, we have to comply at lightspeed lest Stack Exchange get into hot water. – Makoto Jun 1 '17 at 19:32
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    @senshin Re: list of deleted posts: I'm maintaining an archive here (grab the .7z archive). It's updated at... random intervals. – Jason C Jun 1 '17 at 20:37
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    @Makoto This tag page is the most ridiculous I've seen. The single question on the tag literally asks for legal ways to watch the show. – Logan M Jun 2 '17 at 5:01
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    @Makoto We actually didn't comply at "lightspeed." ;) We received this request all the way back on May 3, and didn't do anything with it until May 31. We were originally instructed to delete all the links due to a "valid claim" but we pushed back and talked to legal about it. -- Also for any interested, the full text of the request is now available on Lumen (it's no longer listed as under review). Not that the full text actually provides any more information than the list of links you already had. – animuson Jun 2 '17 at 15:03
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    @animuson: Fair point. I admit to being blinded by my frustration with that statement. I'm calmer now. – Makoto Jun 2 '17 at 15:04
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    A further question for you to bring to the lawyers: In a case like anime.stackexchange.com/questions/3112/…, where the question was deleted presumably due to the content of one answer which would not be much of a loss to the site, can the OP counter-notice requesting that the question and other answer be reinstated without contending the copyright claim on the potentially infringing answer? – Logan M Jun 2 '17 at 22:50
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Is StackExchange going to offer any assistance with this?

I don't appreciate SE rolling over to Aniplex, etc and just deleting my content rather than standing up for its users and its content - which are both the very being of Stack Exchange. How are our users, who are individuals supposed to individually contest against giant conglomerates who have entire legal teams?

Why is StackExchange running scripts for automatic copyright flag and removal, when it should be up to the copyright holders to point out why each post is infringing?
(Redacted due to an incorrect assumption of the script's purpose)

This is setting an ugly precedent, personally I believe the majority of the posts that I have seen should fall under fair use - will Movies & TV, Literature, etc also be burden to over-reaching 3rd party companies?

Why not offer a nicer alternative and edit out any infringing material?

Also, many of our users are non-US residents, like myself - It says in the link provided that filing a counter-notice for people like me is actually something that I probably don't want to do. How can I fight this then?

Please can StackExchange offer more than a token post and offer some real support?

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    In my case my question was edited by another user who added a screenshot from an episode. Wouldn't removing the image (and another from some other user's answer) be enough? – jahu May 31 '17 at 14:01
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    @jahu these removal claims seem to be targeted at specific post IDs and not specific revisions, so there's nothing that says "we don't want anyone to see this specific content" but instead "this whole post must be deleted", at least that's what details I've seen so far. Reposting as a new edited question could be the solution but I don't think we should rush to action until we get some official SE info. Let's wait at least a couple days to hear something from them. – Hakase May 31 '17 at 14:23
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    @Hakase Fwiw, CMs and moderators have the ability to redact individual revisions from the revision history so that they are no longer visible, so it is technically possible to e.g. fix a post in an edit then remove all access to the old versions entirely (legally I have no idea what the implications are). – Jason C May 31 '17 at 14:56
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    The DMCA safe harbor protections provide limited remedies for content hosts and we will pursue any such remedies to their fullest extent where warranted. You will have noticed we only took action on 17 of the over 190 links submitted, as we're still reviewing all others for legal sufficiency and we will respond as permitted by law following review. – JNat May 31 '17 at 15:06
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    Also to clarify: the script does not help the copyright holder in any way find copyright violations, etc. It's just that our process for handling a valid complaint involves flagging the post, deleting it, and then posting a comment. Over several URLs that becomes a tedious string of button pushing - the script automates this process given a list of valid complaint URLs. – animuson May 31 '17 at 15:23
  • @animuson thanks for clearing that up, i'll redact it – Toshinou Kyouko May 31 '17 at 15:26
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A couple important problems here regarding the effectiveness of this post in notifying authors of their counterclaim options (TL;DR: A meta post alone might not be enough). I pulled info about all the reported posts:

In general, here is the breakdown of Anime meta access activity (see also):

Total Users:                16043 [a]
Accessed Last 30 Days:       1537 [b]
Also on meta last 30 days:     97     (0.60% of [a], 6.31% of [b])
On meta, ever:               1858
Never accessed meta, ever:  14185

It's pretty low, but, more importantly, here are those stats for the authors of those posts (original authors of questions and answers, plus original authors and all editors for tag wikis):

Total Authors:                148 [a]
Accessed Last 30 Days:         52     (35.1% of [a])
Also on meta last 30 days:     20     (13.5% of [a]) 
On meta, ever:                 79     (54.5% of [a])
Never accessed meta, ever:     69     (46.6% of [a])

So this raises a few concerns:

  • Issue #1: Given that about 65% of the involved authors have not accessed the main site in the past month, it seems unlikely to expect them to contest. What should be done about this?

    • Suggestion: Notify all authors via email about their options.
  • Issue #2: Given that only about 14% of the involved authors have accessed meta in the past month, it seems unlikely to expect them to read this post. That is, this post may not be an effective way to spread this information (also consider low % of total users that visit meta). Additionally, any given user has no direct way of knowing that their post is part of the claim without cross checking the rather large list against all their own posts, by ID. What should be done about this?

    • Suggestion: Post an automated comment on each of these posts (not just ones that have been deleted) linking to this meta post (not applicable to tag wikis) and stating the issue.

This should maximize communication effectiveness, by providing both an inbox notification for active authors, as well as an email notification for inactive ones (that's the best effort that can be made, I think).

Note: The claim lists /questions/id links. It is unclear if they're referring to just the question, or the entire collection of questions with answers. Of course removing a question implies removing the answer but from the context of the claim it's unclear what is being claimed so it's probably best to assume that everything visible on each post (questions and answers) are subject. In that case it may also make sense to do the email and comment notifications on each answer on each of those posts as well. If the claim includes the answers it seems you'd be obligated to notify the authors of the answers, too, as they are content authors.

A similar concern may be valid for tags (do they mean the tag entry, or do they mean all posts containing that tag?).

Also, there's another bit of vagueness:

Given the unfortunate fact that:

JNat: The content provider (SE) cannot contest the validity of the claim, and are required to take action unless the request is not properly formatted.

I believe it becomes philosophically and morally important to make sure a best effort is made to contact authors and a meta post alone unfortunately doesn't seem to have adequate visibility.


List of Posts By Author

Along those lines, to make it easier to see if your posts are in this list (this is a list of all posts in the claim, it doesn't necessarily mean the posts were removed), here is:

Look at both lists, find your user name, and your posts will be listed there. I'll certainly be filling out my counterclaim forms for my posts if they end up removed. If your username contains non-Latin characters, check the end of the lists, too.

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    The relevant law is 17 U.S. Code § 512 (g). This seems ambiguous to me in a case like this where our content is provided by multiple users ("subscribers") on almost every page. One possible reading is that everyone who has contributed to the page can file a counter-notification. However I am not a lawyer, and I don't think anyone but a lawyer can answer this definitively. – Logan M May 31 '17 at 17:28
  • Nice, thanks for that link. Also, just to be clear, whether the current meta post constitutes acceptable effort, legally, isn't my issue (I'm not even sure, and I don't have enough coffee in me to attempt to check that out, plus I trust SE's legal staff). Specifically, I only think that realistically this won't reach enough authors on its own, and it would be a nice thing to do to take an extra step to reach out more effectively. – Jason C May 31 '17 at 17:32
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    I'm not sure but is it the posters that should/could/need to contest the removal claim or the site's operators? – Hakase May 31 '17 at 19:54
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    or can any user file a counter-claim? I'd like official legal info on that – Hakase May 31 '17 at 20:05
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    @Hakase Like I said, you'd almost certainly have to consult with a copyright lawyer to get a definitive statement on who can issue a counter notice (I don't think there's any such thing as "official legal info" but that's the closest you'll get). The DMCA is almost 20 years old and was not designed for sites like this where content is created by multiple users on each page. One possible reading of the law would require all users who contributed to issue a counter-notice, another would allow any user to file such a claim... – Logan M May 31 '17 at 20:15
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    The degree to which they are liable for infringement caused by other users is also not obvious to a lay-person. In practice, there seems to be nothing preventing anyone from attempting to file a counter-notice, but whether those notices are serviceable, and whether that person will be liable if the courts do find the content to be infringing, is not at all clear. – Logan M May 31 '17 at 20:16
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    I meant I'm hoping we get an answer from one of the SE employees who have talked to the SE lawyer team. – Hakase May 31 '17 at 20:17
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    As a editor, what would be my claim? For example, anime.stackexchange.com/posts/11519/revisions, the meat of the content that I "own" is basically the title which I can't say it's copyrighted. – Braiam Jun 5 '17 at 13:56
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I'm really not happy about this. Stack Exchange's hands are tied, and we're being forced to play along with the lawyers on this one.

I did look at the content that my name came up under, and I can't see why anyone would bother filing a claim on just words.

I digress; I didn't really come here to vent. But two things struck me as annoying throughout this process.

  1. Stack Exchange isn't in a position to counter the validity of these claims. Does that imply that any non-infringing work is effectively stuck in the process until someone actually realizes they made a mistake? More pressingly, do any other sites in the network have some kind of established precedent for dealing with scenarios like this? It may comfort some of us to know how another network site handled it, and how successful they were at ameliorating the DMCA.

  2. The process requires specific, pointed information (emphasis mine):

    • your physical or electronic signature;
    • your name, address, and phone number;
    • identification of the material and its location before it was removed; a statement under penalty of perjury that the material was removed by mistake or misidentification;
    • your consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where you live (if you are in the U.S.), or your consent to the jurisdiction of a federal court in the district where your service provider is located (if you are not in the U.S.); and
    • your consent to accept service of process from the party who submitted the takedown notice.

    I use a pseudonym online for a reason, and I don't think it's particularly fair to demand (for this process) that I remove that. This does raise the question, "is the pseudonym (and a burner phone number) okay to provide for the process", but I do feel like that would only further impact things.

It's just very discouraging, really. We do our best to keep the site free of pirated resources, and it doesn't seem like the industry really cares about our efforts. Definitely not making me feel very good about the whole thing.

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    Yeah, it's annoying and ridiculous that they'd come after us when Googling the title of any anime results in a giant list of pirated streams. – Torisuda Jun 1 '17 at 19:54
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    @Torisuda That's one of the reasons I thought this request was sketchy. Nowhere in the claim did they in any way identify specific content that was being infringed. They just listed a bunch of titles of work and a list of links where those titles appeared. But a title is trademarked, not copyrighted, and DMCA is not applicable to trademark violations and cannot be used for them. In my personal opinion, this request smells horribly of DMCA abuse for something that DMCA is not meant to be used for, but I don't own any of the content and there's nothing I can personally do about it. – animuson Jun 2 '17 at 0:53
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    @animuson: If you could get someone to figure out what other sites did about this kind of thing, I think that'd be a good start. – Makoto Jun 2 '17 at 1:08
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    We're gonna work on that, @Makoto. Not gonna happen quickly, I'm afraid, but if we figure anything out we'll let y'all know. – Shog9 Jun 2 '17 at 1:33
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    @animuson if you want a sketchy url, look at this one "anime.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/detective-conan\" Basically, they are claiming that a url that simply lists a bunch of question which are tagged with detective-conan is infringing their copyrights. If anything, that's a signal that the whole claim is bogus at best without an ounce of human oversight. – Braiam Jun 5 '17 at 13:53
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    Good luck fighting that stupid request. It is corporate trolling at its best. The company putting up those DMCA claims have a quota to meet. "See? We are protecting your content! See? We are necessary!". The only thing we can do is boycot anyplex if it makes any dent to them. – Mindwin Jun 8 '17 at 3:24

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