My family knows not to bother me from 9 to 10 pm every Sunday night. That’s my The Walking Dead time. While the show is about zombies and what happens after the zombie apocalypse, those who watch the show know the real danger to our protagonists, Rick, Michonne, Daryl and the rest of the crew, is not the zombies all all. The real threats come from the living — terrifying villains like the Governor, Gareth and now the charismatic Negan.
So what does this have to do with copyright? Well, in case you were unconscious and left for dead in a hospital last week, the copyright community experienced its own zombie apocalypse. Just prior to the Copyright Office’s Friday deadline to submit comments on its study focused primarily on the effectiveness of the DMCA’s safe harbor and notice and takedown process contained in Section 512 of the copyright law, the Office was swamped with over 90,000 comments. Most of those comments were filed as a result of a last-minute campaign by Fight for the Future and YouTube channel ChannelAwesome in which they urged people to protest DMCA abuse.
We live in a democracy. So it’s wonderful when people speak up and voice their opinions, whether its about copyright or anything else. But I question the usefulness of a campaign intended to simply run up the numbers without truly adding anything of substance to the debate. These 90,000 comments are all identical submissions generated merely by clicking on the “I’m in” button at takedownabuse.org. Like the zombies in The Walking Dead, there was not a lot of effort or brainpower that went into the 90,000 plus submissions.
While it is beneficial for the Office and others in the copyright community to know that there are 90,000 people that feel a certain way about the DMCA, it would have been much more beneficial if these individuals had provided some substantive comments instead of just mindlessly just clicking on a button. As such, these type of zombie comments are only minimally helpful to the Office and other interested parties.
It bears mentioning that I would say the same thing whether these comments were voicing pro or anti-copyright sentiments. If there are problems with the DMCA the best way to understand what those problems are, and to attempt to address them, is for those with concerns to voice them in detail and not file yet another zombie comment. As we’ve learned from The Walking Dead, those zombies are rather easily disposed of.