Tumblr Reminds Us Why Creators Need to Own Their Platform

Internet Troll?Nearly all creators know that they need to keep their copyright so that they can control their creations, but even though it’s 2016 some still forget to apply that same principle to their online presence.

BoingBoing brings us the frustrating tale of a blogger whose Tumblr was taken down by a known copyright troll:

Regular Boing Boing readers have seen me credit This Isn’t Happinessmany times for wonderful visual and audio finds. We’ve been linking toPeter Nidzgorski‘s work since way back in 2008. Recently, his wonderful tumblog—a mix of art, music, film, urban ennui, and sexy design ephemera—went dark. No! Why? Automated DMCA takedowns, spurred by the complaint of a well-known copyright troll.

In Pete’s case, the copyright claimants are known tumblr trolls based in the UK who were claiming rights of music related photos erroneously. Tumblr appears to be now using an automated “take-down first” policy and not a process in which each claim is personally reviewed by staff, as Tumblr has claimed.

We forget that when we create these repositories of ideas, videos, images, and links, if we don’t own and operate the publishing platform ourselves we are proceeding with the risk that Tumblr or YouTube or Facebook or whoever will turn the lights off whenever they, or someone who files a DMCA claim, wants to. Doesn’t matter if the copyright claim is justified or not. DMCA claims generate automated takedowns. If your work involves curation, remix, anything that might involve issues of fair use, this will happen to you. It’s gonna cost you time or money or stress or all of the above.

That Tumblr was wiped from existence due to that copyright troll, and while it was eventually restored (the DMCA notices were bogus) it was still a warning to all creators that if you don’t own your platform then you don’t control it either.

I made a similar point in 2014 when I reported on Tumblr taking URLs away from bloggers and giving them to advertisers and major publishers, and it is just as true today as it was 14 months ago.

If you don’t own your online presence you’re just one bogus DMCA notice away from being shut down. It doesn’t matter if your content is on WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, FlickrYoutube, etc, if it is someone else’s platform then you’re still at risk. (And even though I use a self-hosted WP site, I too am at risk because I don’t control the server – but I do control my backups.)

To be fair, Google (Blogger) and Automattic (WordPress) are less inclined than they used to be to simply wipe your site from existence, and Automattic has even struck back at trolls who abuse the DMCA, but those are the two bright spots in a dark cloud. Both Tumblr and Youtube, to name a couple examples, will take down an entire account in response to the most ridiculous DMCA notices.

That’s a strong argument against relying on Tumblr, but when it comes to Youtube we are over a barrel.

What other choice do we have for online video, DailyMotion? Hosting it ourselves? (In all honesty, I’d rather stick with Youtube.)

image by eirikso

Nate Hoffelder

View posts by Nate Hoffelder
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader. He has been blogging about indie authors since 2010 while learning new tech skills weekly. He fixes author sites, and shares what he learns on The Digital Reader's blog. In his spare time, he fosters dogs for A Forever Home, a local rescue group.

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