The Bernie Sanders campaign has sent an abusive DMCA notice to Wikimedia, the foundation that administers Wikipedia, over their hosting of Sanders campaign logos.

The letter, signed by an attorney at Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm in Seattle, is a DMCA copyright takedown notice, sent to Wikimedia’s DMCA service address, claiming, on penalty of perjury, that hosting copies of the campaign’s logo violates copyright.

There are so. many. problems with this notice. For starters, hosting campaign materials in an encyclopedia is almost certainly fair use, and thanks to a recent EFF victory, rightsholders are required to consider fair use before sending out takedowns. If Wikimedia rejects this takedown — as they should — and the campaign sues them, the campaign could be on the hook for all of Wikimedia’s legal fees when they win.

But that’s law. More significant is tactics.

Why in the name of all that is sane and electable would the campaign for a presidential hopeful try to stop people from reproducing its campaign materials? It is literally the most dunderheaded, anti-electable tactic I can imagine in a twenty-first-century political campaign.

If the campaign believes it can use copyright to suppress criticism of Sanders, it’s even dumber than it looks: political speech receives special protection under fair use doctrine, and critical political speech about an election is the most protected category of political speech it’s possible to have.

Presumably, this is just someone at Garvey Schubert Barer being an idiot, and that idiot should be fired. But there’s already damage done, and it will cost the campaign goodwill and energy that it should be expending to win the nomination, not to censor the Internet.

Update: Tomasz W. Kozlowski writes, “I have already filed a DMCA counternotice for those logos, yesterday, with the Wikimedia Foundation, claiming that they do not meet the threshold of originality and therefore belong in the public domain.

“Per 17 USC 512(g)(2)(C), the Sanders campaign has now no more than 14 business days to inform the Wikimedia Foundation that they have filed a lawsuit against me, otherwise the Foundation will have to restore the files.”


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