Well, well, well, I have just received a takedown notice from one Gregory Kohs.
First let me make this one thing clear. I am not a paid blogger, I’m just an ordinary Wikipedia volunteer. I use this small blog, the Gender Desk, to talk about coloring books and paper dolls, and sometimes about suicide and sexual assault. I also criticize both Wikipedia and Wikipedia criticism sites, especially when they target women.
Now, it has always been understood that Kohs was the owner of record for Wikipediocracy, but I thought the whole Wikipediocracy blog was being reorganized, in the aftermath of Kohs’ global ban from the Wikipedia projects. Just a few weeks ago, long-time site moderator Zoloft/William Burns announced that “the domain hosting and administration will be placed in trustworthy hands and the current holders will stand down”, along with a bunch of other warm and fuzzy stuff that was supposed to happen but didn’t.
But it looks like that did not happen either, that Kohs did not step down on schedule, that he did not give up the password as envisioned, and is even now firing off legal notices on behalf of the Wikipediocrazies.
Before Kohs and Wikipediocracy start firing off DMCA takedown notices, they ought to stop and think. It is perfectly legal to publish excerpts of copyrighted material for the purpose of commenting on it. This is called “fair use” and is specifically protected by copyright law. And you know how fast the Wikipediocracy moderators can scrub something and make it disappear, or even rewrite it, the minute you criticize them. You had better have a screenshot, just to prove you’re not lying.
Most platforms like YouTube or this one, WordPress, have a huge amount of material to keep track of, so they use automated systems for takedown requests. This makes it tempting for anyone who is criticized – and the Scientology people are notorious for this — to use DMCA notices fraudulently in order to silence criticism. But WordPress can and will sue someone who does this. They have already won $25,000 from “Straight Pride UK”, which for some mysterious reason, no longer exists. In the case of deliberate deception, a court can award damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees.
So what happened? What claims are they – Kohs, and by extension Wikipediocracy – making against me?
The content they object to is a screenshot from the website Wikipediocracy: (archived) that I used to explain what was going on with the blog. The material they claim copyright to is here: (archived), which would relate to the second and third image, about Kohs’ understated snarks directed at the now-departed Rogol. You would think that Kohs would have recognized in myself a kindred spirit, who was as equally irritated with the insufferable Rogol as he was, and that we would have ended up bonding away in a sort of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” eternal honeymoon heaven. But, no. It was not to be. Whatevs, but just to show good faith, I have now modified the post slightly to emphasize the “transformative manner” in which the screenshot is used, so that it will be even more obvious that the intent is appraisal rather than “exact reproduction”.
And yes this is “fair use”. The copyright law of the United States sets out four requirements. Shall we go over them?
1. Used for criticism? Yup. The screenshot is only used for proof of what was written, for context of a blog post of over 500 words, just like Twitter uses a screenshot of something as the basis for a tweetstorm, a cascade of nested comments.
2. Factual and published? Yup, and not very well written either, just the usual snark. There is no way anyone is going to think I am stealing someone’s unpublished masterpiece novel here.
3. Amount of material used in relation to the whole? A cropped screenshot. This is hardly scraping the website for content. You see more material in a Twitter thread.
4. Effect on the value of the work? Well, some people would argue that the value of Wikipediocracy is already zero, but if someone already reads that trash, I doubt if they will stop reading it just because of something I say. If anything, it will probably drive more traffic to their site, which is probably why they do it.
The complainant on the notice is listed as Gregory Kohs, who claims to be the copyright holder: “I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed”. And just in case you are thinking this is old or outdated, Kohs’ digital signature is dated Sept. 14, 2017.
Kohs is no stranger to making fake claims. He uses them to drive readership to his blog. Who could forget his “grant proposal” on Meta, “Grants:IdeaLab/Impacts on lives of the banned,” complete with a troll avatar, which he went back to his blog and bragged about here: (archived).
The Wikipediocrazies have gone to a huge amount of trouble with this takedown request. I get it that they hate women, it is part of their marketing approach. And I get it that they would go after the Wikimedia Foundation as a symbol of some corporate entity, even if it is non-profit and not really all that large. They are trying to subvert its terms of service for their own profit, with their paid writing clique. But why on earth would grown men want to target some stranger on the internet? Why would they make a corporate decision to go after some little person, a private citizen, off in a corner of the internet with the coloring books and the paper dolls. Not good optics. The real question is why the Wikipediocrazies don’t get a life.
But I do want to be fair, and give Wikipediocracy the right of reply. Is there some reason Kohs is sensitive about his relationship with Rogol? Some have even entertained the notion that Rogol is one of Kohs’ sock puppets. Or maybe Kohs is sensitive about his college philosophy grades, and regrets posting them, although you have to wonder why he took so many of those courses in the first place if he can’t stand the subject. Also, you would think he could get that scrubbed if he had had second thoughts — they remove and rewrite stuff all the time over there, but that particular post is still live. So did I miss something really obvious? Wikipediocracy may be censored, but y’all can speak out over here. I can even start an RFC in a separate post if you want one.