I keep getting email about my banning and the subsequent fandom issues on Livejournal, so I figured I should probably address it all in one fell swoop.
1.) Me getting banned.
I was banned from Livejournal for being, under their terms of service, a “serial copyright offender.” The offenses in question were:
1.) A single image on Improved Archie, which I removed at their request;
2.) The Harry Potter review, which I also removed at their request;
3.) The entirety of the rest of Improved Archie, which earned me the SCO tag and instant suspension.
Now, to answer some quick questions:
Were these “offenses” cause for legitimate complaint? I’ve done some study of the copyright laws in question, and my conclusion is that the Potter post probably was cause for legitimate complaint, on the basis of the use of quotation prior to publication of the work. I’ve also concluded that if I hadn’t quoted the work at all, Scholastic would have had very little cause at all to issue a DMCA notice. (Not that this would have necessarily stopped them from doing so, of course, but let’s not get into hypotheticals here.) The Archie posts are a different kettle of fish, being determined by a number of things (for example, is one panel from a comic “a complete work” in and of itself – I believe not and there’s some precedent to back me up, but there’s also some precedent arguing the other way), but my conclusion there is that, yes, it was transformative parody and I was in the right under fair use.
Should I have contested the notices? Well, if I was rich, then sure. Even if the Electronic Frontier Foundation decided to take on my case, they probably wouldn’t pay for me to go to the United States to contest the case, which would have been A) necessary and B) probably run into the thousands of dollars in court costs. Moral of the story, kids: challenge copyright law under the laws of your own country if you’re going to do it. (The astute will note that this site is hosted on a Canadian server for a reason.)
Was Livejournal in the right to suspend me? “Right” doesn’t quite enter into it; under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act LJ/SixApart is required to prohibit use to anybody they consider a serial copyright offender, and no, compliance with previous DMCA notices affects this not at all. Given the ridiculous amount of image posting on Livejournal, this means that many a user is probably a serial copyright offender already and doesn’t even realize it. The problem is not Livejournal in this instance: the problem is that the DMCA is a bad law, not just in this respect but in many, many other ways as well (it’s been argued repeatedly that it is unconstitutional).
2.) Okay, what about the Harry/Snape thing?
I’m not sure why people started contacting me about this, considering my most notable contribution to Harry Potter’s online frenzy has been taking the piss out of him, but they did. A Livejournal user was summarily banned for posting an image of pictorial art she had done up, namely of Snape and Harry having gay sex. I’ve seen the work (and, although my personal inclinations as regards the work are irrelevant to its legal merits, let me just say: ick). In fairness to the artist, I will admit that the depiction of Harry is of indeterminate age – he could be sixteen, he could be twenty.
That having been said, people ragging on Livejournal for banning this user summarily are on crack. This rant covers most of what I would say, but let me retouch the high points: given the incredibly hostile state of American law to questionable online content, social networking sites (like Livejournal) have to self-police themselves and strictly, lest some governmental agency decide to take matters into their own hands.
3.) Pro-anorexia comms are okay? WTF?
This is a fairly recent development that seems to have emerged out of the furor from various fandom groups on Livejournal, attempting to point out hypocrisy on LJ’s part by allowing communities that encourage their members to be anorexic – which would violate LJ’s terms of service by “encouraging harm” to a person or group. I get that people are pissed off at Livejournal, and that pro-anorexia communities are fucking creepy – but this argument just doesn’t fly, folks.
All the anorexia comm has to do is say that they’re encouraging anorexia for a perceived positive purpose. (“Social acceptance” and “self-esteem” would be, I suspect, the likely candidates.) You don’t think it’s that easy? Because, trust me – it’s that easy. Everybody makes tradeoffs every day “encouraging harm” to a person or group.
On Livejournal I can find communities devoted to fattening women to ridiculously unhealthy levels (“fattenwomen”), and yeah, that is some seriously freaky stuff there, but they’re not shortening women’s lifespans for a whim, they’re doing it for mutual sexual gratification. I can find communities devoted to smoking (“pro_smokers”), but they’re not trying to promote lung cancer and emphysema – they enjoy the pleasurable experience of smoking. I can find communities devoted to heroin use (“opiate_affair”) and cocaine use (“4evr_nosebleed”) and fucking crystal meth (“spun_psychosis”), and they can just say “we’re discussing in a scholarly manner the personal experiences of use of these drugs, dude. Hey, you know where we can score some more? Uh, for scholarly purposes?”
And that’s just the obvious stuff. How about skydiving? (“skydiving”) I mean, come on – you’re throwing yourself out of a perfectly good plane and if your parachute doesn’t work, you die! Sadomasochistic sexual practices? (“bdsm_news”) Anybody who’s done even a little of that knows that things can go wrong if you’re not careful. Hell, your sneakers encourage harm to a person or group (Chinese sweatshop workers). Let’s ban all communities about sneakers. And anybody who lists “sneakers” as an interest. Come to think, since most people who run wear sneakers, let’s ban the running and jogging comms as well.
And then, whoops, some jogger gets pissed off that his community got nuked, and sues Livejournal for breach of contract and wins eleventy million dollars and suddenly there isn’t a Livejournal any more.
I’m purposely being a bit ridiculous here, of course, but the point is really simple: people complaining about Livejournal are complaining stupidly. Their complaint is not with Livejournal, who are simply being gutless in the way that any major corporation is going to be gutless. Their complaint is with various aspects of intellectual property and/or copyright law and how, in everyday life, those aspects end up being exercised. And that anger should be directed productively, which is to say at changing those laws. Kvetching about Livejournal is a waste of time.