Yahoo’s Censorship is Bullshit

Yahoo’s Censorship is Bullshit

Image by Thomas Hawk
[I am CEO of Zooomr]

Update: I did an interview with Jeff Diehl earlier this afternoon about Yahoo’s Censorship of this image. Jeff is the plaintiff in the EFF case against Michael Crook and runs the site 10 Zen Monkeys. You can red the interview here.

Yahoo needs to change how they handle bogus DMCA takedown notices.

I am resubmitting this photo that they deleted previously but I’m pissed for a few reason’s.

The photo above is of Michael Crook. Michael Crook is an internet bully who used craigslist to bait a bunch of guys into responding to "Casual Encounters" ads and then collected personal information about them, email addresses, phone numbers, etc. Then he published all of that information publicly on the internet destroying these men’s lives.

There was a backlash of people who felt this was an asshole move for someone to do and many people, myself included, published a photo of Crook from an appearance that he made on Fox News (fair use from an editorial perspective and an image in any regards that Crook did not hold copyright over). Crook was on Fox News talking about his websites which reportedly also make claims that dismiss the Holocaust, etc.

Anyways, obviously there were a lot of men pretty upset after being victimized by Crook, so I could understand his desire to not have photos of him showing up on the internet. But with karma what goes around comes around sometimes.

But what I’m pissed at Yahoo about is how they handled all of this.

What Crook did is basically sent a bogus DMCA notice to tons of sites. I got takedown notices for Thomashawk.com and Zooomr both where I published his photo as well. Boing Boing got one. Lots of people got them.

But Yahoo handled this all in the wrong way.

Shortly after recieving a bogus takedown notice from Crook, Yahoo simply deleted the photo page from my stream showing Crook. They didn’t give me a time limit to try and appeal this decision. They didn’t make it temporary. It was permanently deleted.

What’s worse is that they deleted all of my metadata associated with this image. This included a long stream of discourse between Flickr users in the comments section of the photo.

Irrespective of any DMCA claim about the image. Yahoo could have simply taken down the image, but left all of the metadata associated with the image. Now (if memory serves correct) about 40 people who commented and expressed an opinion on the topic have been silenced. Their thoughts and comments permanently (best I can tell) deleted from existence by Yahoo. This in my book is censorship and it’s not right.

Subsequent to this deletion of my photo on Flickr I sent Flickr staff an email complaining about this and pointing to the blog post by Boing Boing documenting that Crook was abusing the system.

Still, my photo was not reinstated.

Finally I received a notice from Yahoo, only after Crook rescinded his DMCA notice (likely as part of a settlement with the EFF soon to be announced) that if I wanted to I could repost the photo.

The problem is that even though I’m now reposting this photo all of my metadata associated with the previous image has been destroyed. This is not right and Yahoo needs to change their policy on how they handle things like this in the future.

36 Replies to “Yahoo’s Censorship is Bullshit”

  1. I did not see the original photo, But I can understand the aggrivation. Yahoo is not entirely honest. A few friends of mine have used their Yahoo Personals and Yahoo made it very difficult for t hem to cancell the membership, continuing to charge their credit cards even after they cancelled and they had to go out of their way to make sure it was finally discontinued. It has happened to quite a few people I know and it makes me mad that Yahoo owns FLickr. I wish a different company did.

  2. I agree this type of censorship is wrong, it’s not fair that you lost all your comments and metadata. Lets hope they don’t change their minds and delete this photo.

  3. I can understand Yahoo pulling it off, but they should have backed up the data. I didn’t see your post, but it sound like it added much value to the community. They should have at least give you the option to use a different image and continue the thread. Maybe users can help out with this issue. Is their anyway to pull comments off Flickr using the API? I so, then you could back up to your own server.

  4. so this is a screen shot from fox news? would you still be complaining if Fox sent you a dmca takedown notice? Do not get me wrong, I see how its wrong for him to send out a dmca notice to a image that he does not own. But do you own the copyright to this photo?

  5. so this is a screen shot from fox news? would you still be complaining if Fox sent you a dmca takedown notice? Yahoo could have taken the image down without destroying the description field, the comments and all the other data associated with this image. I’m most concerned not that they took the image down, but that they killed all of my meta data associated with the image. The words, the text, the stuff that should never fall under DMCA. Ideas, thoughts, opinions, expressions. Yahoo’s policy rather than deleting the image page entirely should be that they delete the image temporarily (allowing the offending party time to dispute) but leave all of the text. Whether Fox, Crook, etc. is irrelevant. They should not have deleted mine and others thoughts, ideas, comments, opinions etc. This is censorship in my book.

  6. Do not get me wrong, I see how its wrong for him to send out a dmca notice to a image that he does not own. But do you own the copyright to this photo? First off, what I did was take a "fair use" editorial image and mashed it up into an image that represented my ideas about how I felt about Michael Crook. In terms of Fox objecting to the image, Fox in fact said that anyone could use the image online. See the quote from Boing Boing below, I did also in fact send Flickr staff a link to the Boing Boing article reporting that the actual copyright owner Fox News had no problem with people using the image. "I just spoke to a producer on the Fox News program "Hannity and Colmes" — the image Crook is complaining about is a screengrab from his appearance on that show. I explained Crook’s latest bogus DMCA hijinks to the Fox producer, who laughed, asked why Crook was claiming rights to an image that Fox produced, then said Fox had no problem with BoingBoing or anyone else posting the thumbnail image online."

  7. I agree what you say about meta data and tags. but then again, whats the use of meta data without a photo, unless you are going to repost the photo again, which could be infringing. I guess a solution to the problem is for them to create a system that puts a freeze on that page so it can not be accessed by anyone but you, and gives a week to dispute it, and if no one disputes it, then it will be deleted, that could work maybe?

  8. but then again, whats the use of meta data without a photo, unless you are going to repost the photo again, which could be infringing. In this case it’s about ideas even more than the image. Ideas are important and should be protected and not censored on flickr ever irrespective of image copyright. Yahoo should use their backups to reinstate the original page of mine that they destroyed.

  9. Fair use is sketchy, there are other guidelines that go along with it. It bothers me how people think they can use anything and claim fair use these days, but as long as fox said its cool like you said it should be ok.

  10. Yea, it kind of stinks that the meta data is gone, but there is no use beating a dead horse over it, I guess the best you can do is prob try to get people to request a new way handling it and hope for the best it will change. like i said, if they have a way to freeze a page when they receive a dmca notice so only the user and admin can see it till its disputed, it could work.

  11. The 4 factors to be considered before claiming fair use that no one bothers to care about. 1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; 2. the nature of the copyrighted work; 3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and 4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. Like for example, I once had someone take one of my images and tried to use it and claim fair use. But by them using my image it devalues the market value of my image because I can no longer sell a exclusive license for it.

  12. I think its ridiculous they would take down the entire page. They went about it entirely the wrong way. Beat a dead horse like crazy, Thomas. Expression is still free at least.

  13. 1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; My flickr account is non-commercial. 2. the nature of the copyrighted work; editorial, to make a point. 3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and I single screen from an entire video. Just like you can quote from books selectively, use short amounts of video or audio interviews as exerpts, etc., no difference in my book here. 4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. No negative material affect on the original copyrighted work. In fact, by generating publicity over this matter one might argue that I only make the work worth more money because the ratings for the show could potentially be higher were it re-runed in the future given the added awareness. Like I said, fair use, but even if there is a doubt, Fox was quoted on Boing Boing as saying anyone could use it. And I forwarded this link on to Flickr staff. Sure Flickr should have better investigated this takedown notice. But that’s not my biggest problem. My biggest problem is that they destroyed *my* metadata associated with the image. It would seem to me that anyone who didn’t like a conversation attached to a photo, all they would have to do is send Yahoo a DMCA notice and Yahoo would simply kill the conversation. You can surpress an image without destroying the conversation around the image. Particularly in this case, a highly charged incident, with clear opinion value destroying this data was wrong. Look, I have other posts on Flickr that I’ve used to express my opinion on things. Here’s an extremely popular photo where I was assaulted by a company security guard. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/161990986/ Here’s another one on PriceRitePhoto where they tried to rip me off on a camera. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/68480113/ It sucks that all these people would have to do to kill the voice of the many, many, people that have commented on these photos and expressed an opinion is to send Yahoo a bogus DMCA notice. This sucks and should be changed.

  14. btw – I saw crook on hannity and colmes a long time ago and he was a dick, saying the US soldiers were getting what they deserved in Iraq. no class.

  15. I agree with your views Thomas but I’m going to play the Devil’s Advocate here. Is Yahoo really committing censorship? I’m sure that somewhere in the Terms of Use for Flickr there is a statement which says something along the lines of "We reserve the right to remove any image posted to Flickr and it’s affiliated websites at any time and for any reason". Yahoo doesn’t want to get involved politically, they want their cyberspace to be a fun, informative, profitable place. To watch themselves and avoid any possible lawsuits Yahoo needs to be ontop of things like this and prevent them from happening. If Yahoo became a place where every nutjob in America came to post his or her obtuse views of society I would no longer be here. I don’t come here for political debate, I come here because photography is my hobby. I read and respect your blog sites. Let’s keep the political commentary there and the excellent photography you do here.

  16. I agree with your views Thomas but I’m going to play the Devil’s Advocate here. Is Yahoo really committing censorship? I believe that when you take someone’s words and delete them that you are in fact practicing censorship. This doesn’t mean that Yahoo’s TOS doesn’t give them this right. It probably does, but it doesn’t make it *right*. It doesn’t make it somehow non censorship. Flickr should aim for a higher standard. Did Yahoo have a "right" to take Shi Tao’s personal email and turn it over to the Chinese Government resulting in his unjust imprisonment? Maybe. But it still doesn’t make that *right* even if they did. Most of my work on Flickr is simply that. Entirely unpolitical images. My representation of my memories and my days and my art. But I think that Flickr can be many things to many people. And at least in part to me Flickr represents a place where ideas can flourish. Most of this happens in the many groups and forums on Flickr. I’ve seen many, many, many political discussions on Flickr. Occasionally, if I’m pissed about something I’ll use my photostream to express my frustration. It is after all my photostream. Yahoo doesn’t want to get involved politically, they want their cyberspace to be a fun, informative, profitable place. Yeah, maybe. But censorship is still wrong.

  17. With ya Hawk, all the way ! Social Network sites are in trouble all over the web right now. Big corporate doing it’s usual ‘save the children’, ‘save my ass’ and screw the customer bit. *sighs* *kicks dog*

  18. Why Google went with Picasa instead of snapping up Flickr, I’ll never know. What I *do* know is I’m not a fan of the Yahoo! brand – I don’t think their indexing system is very relevant anymore, Yahoo 360 and all their associated MySpace-before-it-was-MySpace-now-we’re-a-wannabe "services" are terrible, their web-email BLOWS, etc- and I really never wanted to be a part of the Yahoo! "community." Flickr was sticky for reasons Yahoo obviously fails to comprehend, because I have just lost all desire to participate with Yahoo. So now I’m hunting for a new photo hosting service. It would be nice if I could migrate my Flickr photos, complete as sets, with metadata, but I have no way of knowing if any of my photos have been used on other sites, and I’d hate to snap media out from under someone’s feet. I’m really mad at Flickr for doing this.

  19. I love your photos and have probably not spent as much time on anyone’s Flickr site as I have on yours! That’s when I had to add you as a contact… I agree with you absolutely about censorship and your stand in this case. I do think however, that free speech is not truly prevalent in the US – at least not anymore. And that is a fact. It is imperative for people to do what you’re doing and speak up against censorship. Best of luck!

  20. Firstly can i just say, I’ve never heard of this bloke before now, so in that extend your picture has informed at least me. Coming from England i don’t know if that’s a national thing or if it’s just me, but i do watch the news and keep upto date with current affairs – interesting. Secondly, i don’t understand how if the copyright user has no objection to an image being used, why flickr should have ANY PROBLEM whatsoever – strange. I do know, having done a degree that involved copyright law and having worked in music publishing, that copyright laws do differ in the UK to the US, and infact Europe differs from country to country, although the EUCD is now our equivalent of America’s DMCA. (and i didn’t know that until reading this and looking into it. Something else this post has informed) Just think, without this kind of freedom, perhaps we would be forced into only having our relative television news channels for information-HEAVEN FORBID! I’m rather touched by the fact that the internet was invented by a man who gave it to the world for free – now so many people make money via it. Slight side track from your discussion, but hey.

  21. I’m not a lawyer, but I do know a bit about intellectual property rules. I’m amazed that the "fair use" issue ever came up. Taking the 4 points above: 1. the purpose and character of the use, including whether such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes; — as Thomas says, the use is non-commercial. To the extent that ithe photo’s use is designed to foster discussion, it may be considered "educational," but its non-commercial use should render that issue moot. 2. the nature of the copyrighted work; — The copyrighted material is Fox’s newscast in its entirety. A split-second screen image from a broadcast over the public airwayves does not consittute the copyrighted work. Besides, Fox doesn’t own copyright to a public person’s face. 3. the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and — See 2. 4. the effect of the use upon the potential market for or value of the copyrighted work. — Use of a screen image from a public broadcast has no effect. There’s another issue here and that’s the First Amendment. Copyright law cannot be used to infringe free speech. If people or organizations were able to "copyright" images of themselves in public settings, they could — in effect — prevent photography and other forms of speech. There is nothing more public than a news broadcast. Capturing the subject’s image in public and distributing it in the context of non-commercial discussion is, in my view, speech protected by the First Amendment.

  22. Very sad story. It doesn´t surprise me, if we remember Yahoo´s behavior on chinese affairs. Just a remark: As ishotyourband pointed (and as a lawyer with some experience in intellectual property), it´s an error to claim fair use on this image. When you claim it, you assume it´s copyrighted material and that you´re using it in a ‘fair’ way. This material (screenshot) is not copyrighted. As DCVoyager stated: "a split-second screen image from a broadcast over the public airwayves does not consittute the copyrighted work. Besides, Fox doesn’t own copyright to a public person’s face". This is public material.

  23. I think Yahoo’s reaction is predictable. Who are they more likely to be sued by? Do what that person says they have to do and don’t bother to think. That’s the lowest cost/risk/effort action.

  24. Thomas. According to the EULA who owns the comments and metadata? I ask because I am not sure. I think it is an important idea in this whole conflict.

  25. homas. According to the EULA who owns the comments and metadata? I ask because I am not sure. I think it is an important idea in this whole conflict. earthdog, this is not stipulated in teh EULA best I can tell.

  26. Hi Thomas, I find myself in the same boat today. A photo I had taken of the Magdeburger Ehrenmal (a sculpture) by Ernst Barlach while I was on vacation (for non-commercial use) was removed from Flickr today due to copyright infringement. Now the photo I took had an accompanying description that gave voice to my feelings about the context in which the sculpture was created. I can’t remember if there were comments from other users as well, but the point here is that I can’t check because all of the meta data has been permanently deleted. I’ve written Flickr/Yahoo on the matter, believing my use of the picture to be Fair Use, but I have a feeling that it probably won’t go anywhere given other posts I’ve read from people with similar experiences. At this point, all I have is the name of the person making the complaint, but no other details.

  27. Thamas, I appreciate you bringing all this stuff to our attention. Personally it has helped me reconsidder to whom I entrust material to in the future – probably just myself. I reckon post a link in your photo description to a discussion board in future where you don’t have the same metadata vulnerability. Basically what Iam saying is that this really shakes my confidence in Yahoo. Previously, I never really realised how much I was trusting them with my stuff. Back-handed, thuggish attacks on the community that built it, reveal an ugly unethical side of the juggernaut. Not in spite of, but especially BECAUSE we individuals are small fry. I only now realise that yahoo’s aquisition of flickr was a "bad thing". I wish google had the foresight to buy flickr before yahoo did. Perhaps things may have turned out differently. Styggiti, looks like they must be spending lots of money on trols – instead of friends of the community. Where’s the love?

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