Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we get into a Twitter fight with someone who gave our video game a bad review on YouTube. And when we say that we would never send a DMCA takedown for it. And when one mysteriously turns up anyway.
This is one of the most confusing series of events ever to surround a takedown. First, Richard La Ruina, a man who claims to be a top pickup artist, created a somewhat controversial dating game called Super Seducer. Then, YouTuber IAmPattyJack (also known as Chris Hodgkinson) covered the game in his “_____ Is the Worst Game Ever” series.
La Ruina took poorly to the bad review Hodgkinson gave Super Seducer and showed up in the video’s comments when it only had about 100 views. Hodgkinson and La Ruina then got into it on Twitter, which did eventually resolve itself into La Ruina acknowledging that giving a review copy to someone who does a “Worst Game Ever” series was perhaps not the smartest move.
That’s when it got weird. Someone else on Twitter applauded La Ruina for admitting he was wrong instead of sending a DMCA takedown. La Ruina responded “ah yeah we have our DMCA subscription,” which is not a thing. (As others have pointed out, he may have meant a service that makes filing DMCA takedowns easier.)
Hodgkinson showed back up to say that this was not something La Ruina wanted to do, and La Ruina said he “decided not to, I believe in freedom and democracy and all that american [sic] stuff. We only DMCA when people rip our products.” It got weirder when, contrary to what La Ruina had stated on Twitter, a DMCA notice resulted in the review getting taken down. Hodgkinson then got an apology letter from La Ruina’s PR people, saying the notice had been retracted, and offering to pay for any lost income Hodgkinson would have as a result of the video vanishing. La Ruina sent Hodgkinson $50, which Hodgkinson said he did not want. It took a while, but the video is finally back on YouTube.
La Ruina’s apparent first instinct—that he should not send a DMCA takedown aimed at a review—was the correct one. It’s not infringement and therefore not what takedown notices are for. But La Ruina also wrongly framed it as his choice, stemming out of benevolence on his part, and not a necessary aspect of the takedown process. And that is where we constantly run into problems. DMCA takedowns are supposed to be for infringement and not silencing criticism. But the perception that they are a tool for that is so pervasive that merely following the rules makes you look like the good guy.
Even with all of those factors, the video was still down for days. It seems that the DMCA ends up being a censorship tool even when people say they will do the right thing.
This is an entry in the Takedown Hall of Shame, highlighting the worst of bogus copyright and trademark complaints.