How Should We Respond To This DMCA Takedown?

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Busy week here at Passionfruit HQ, our story about Lillee Jean has been ping ponging around the internet, most awesomely getting a shout out from SomeOrdinaryGamers on his Youtube last night. This story is far from over, despite scrubbing the internet of most of her footprint, she recently put out a new video rebranding herself as an actress and not a beauty influencer. Got it, cool.

One place the story isn’t actively appearing is on Google News. That’s because Lillee Jean Inc filed a DMCA takedown claim against us, alleging that our illustration in the article includes a frame from one of Lillee Jean’s videos, and is a violation of her copyright on the video.

Except, except: Fair use. We’re a journalistic enterprise, and part of doing any journalism or commentary is being able to reference other copyrighted work that is illustrative of the story you’re trying to tell. We’ve talked about this plenty before, if you need a refresher here you go (though our lawyers would have me tell you that we aren’t providing specific legal advice, always speak to your own retained lawyer before getting involved with this stuff).

The catch here is that Lillee and her mother have a well documented history of using these spurious claims to uncover the personal information of the site owner, then weaponizing that information to allegedly harass anyone who criticizes their behavior.

“But James, you’re a publisher, why can’t you just file your counterclaim?” If only it were that simple.

See, when I started “doing stuff” on the internet back in 2001, I was one of the first generations to really understand that personal information on the internet could be used against you. I learned this lesson the hard way, when a now-convicted pedophile parked in front of my house after driving to NY from Florida when I was 13. Nothing happened but like…scary stuff.

Since then, in pretty much every digital forum I’ve existed in, I’ve used only a portion of my name. James Del is just the start of my legal name; my full last name is longer, a mouthful, hard to spell, and frankly, in 2004 when I signed up for Facebook, the limited search functionality made it hard for new friends to search for my full, obnoxious last name. So I dropped it online.

It’s not that I’m trying to hide anything from anyone…my friends, family, and co-workers all generally know my full name. But in the interest of not giving the internet anything to chew on (or more importantly, not giving the internet an angle to attack my family who did not sign up for the extremely online life I opted for), I’m hesitant to file my counterclaim, knowing that my full legal name will get sent to Lillee Jean, and they will potentially use that information against me as they’ve allegedly done to everyone else who has tried to expose this practice.

This, at the core, is what our story is about. When the systems used to protect copyright holders are used to harass copyright holders, it chills free speech, it creates undue stress, and, as SomeOrdinaryGamers points out, it creates a Streisand Effect. I’m only talking about this now because of their continued effort to get me to stop talking about it, that’s how that works.

That brings me to the question at hand. My options here are to file a counterclaim using my full legal name, knowing that Lillee Jean already has that information, though this claim would give her a clean screenshot linking my real name to my real work. All she has right now is an assumption that she knows my real name, likely based on a wild amount of Googling and connecting dots about where I spend time and reference on my social channels. Can’t really expose someone with that, but by responding to her DMCA claim, Google will forward my personal information to her so she could potentially file suit against me if she so chooses (or she can just post that information publicly against my will, which is generally what happens).

Another option is to respond to the claim but use my James Del moniker, somewhat flying in the face of Google’s request that I use my full legal name in an effort to speed up legal service (that is, the copyright holder needs to know the legal name of who they should take to court, giving them an abridged version of my legal name is likely to piss off both the service officer, the court issuing the summons, and Google).

The last option is to replace the screenshot of Lillee with an illustration of her that I would commission, kind of admitting that I don’t want to go to court over this silliness, but also potentially leaving the door open for prejudicial claims (let the record show, I firmly believe that the image is fair use and not copyright infringement). 

I know what I think I want to do, I know what my lawyers are telling me to do, but I want to know what you think we should do. Respond to the DMCA claim with my full name and let them do what they’re going to do with that info? Respond with my internet name and hope Google doesn’t get annoyed? Take the photo down and illustrate our point instead?

Respond to this email or shoot us a DM, we’re honestly curious how you handle DMCA takedowns and what you think we should do about this one.


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