Bartholomew’s Blog Faces Pressure

Richard Bartholomew’s blog Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion is your go-to source for analysis of religious news, particularly of the right-wing extreme variety in his home country of Britain. Recently his blog had some down time as a result of an absurd copyright complaint from one of the subjects he follows. He tells the story from an alternate site – now down – and was picked up by Ed Brayton, TorrentFreak and BoingBoing:

Yesterday, my main site was taken down for about 12 hours. It is now back up, but with one entry missing, for 27 September 2012. This is due to a vexatious DMCA copyright infringement notice, made in bad faith by a man who wishes to suppress free discussion of his publicly-stated political views. The complaint concerned 16 words quoted from a Facebook discussion forum. Here’s the background.

A couple of weeks ago, I noted a typical piece of abuse by supposed “activist” Charlie Flowers. The context was the cancellation by Conway Hall in London of a planned debate between Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (“Tommy Robinson”) of the English Defence League and Abdullah Al Andalusi of the Muslim Debate Initiative. Searchlight magazine was among those critical of the decision to hold the debate, and the venue cancelled the booking to avoid protests. Flowers and Al Andalusi subsequently discussed the matter on Facebook…

Flowers proceeded to write some foul things about Searchlight on his Facebook page. Bartholomew quoted him in a post that is now only available in Google cache. Flowers lodged a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) complaint with Bartholomew webhost, an American company called Dreamhost. The company seems to have capitulated without allowing Bartholomew a chance to respond.

I’ve given the Brits some grief over their heavy-handed libel laws. It appears that the American copyright laws, particularly the DMCA, are apt to have the same chilling effect. As Bartholomew puts it, “Who would have thought that having a webhost in the USA rather than the UK would actually come with a free speech disadvantage?” *wince*

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  • Paul

    That is very sad. We who puff up proudly about freedom of the press now have netcops looking over our shoulders and bullying webhosts to get rid of “offensive” postings on a blog. When has it ever been so that public statements could not be quoted? Isn’t that the basis of most journalism? Unless he was misquoted or quote mined to make it sound like something other than what was truly said there is no excuse for this. The webhost needs to grow some balls too because if anytime someone uses this little strategem to silence dissent or even to prevent people hearing things they said but don’t want it pointed out, then the internet as a dynamic engine for exchanging ideas is dead.

    A few decades ago print and broadcast media had a similar assault where they demanded that reporters reveal their confidential sources. Several reporters went to jail briefly for content and some news organizations had to weigh their duty to report against the legal hassles. The TV and print people held together knowing that it would be the end of access to things that need to be taken out into the sunshine if they began giving out the names of their sources. It proved a tough time for a while but in the end enough stuck to their guns to where the practice of demanding news sources went away for the most part.

    Nowadays the press has a too cozy relationship with the halls of power and we have seen internet journalism become the new muckrakers who dig out the truth and publish it. It also provides a broader spectrum of voices out there trying to tell the stories so we get more than just the Red state – Blue state major party line. The only time that more knowledge is worse than ignorance is when you are the one who got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

  • vasaroti

    I wrote a wee comment to Dreamhost. The idea that a US internet service would immediately kowtow to any foreign entity, be it individual or government, is offensive.

    I’m hoping that Sen. Al Franken is reelected. He seems to be the only person in D.C. who understands what net neutrality is, or gives a crap about an open, accessible internet.