We’ve seen some ridiculous DMCA takedowns over the years, but we might have a new champion. On Monday, radio host Rush Limbaugh — who over a three-day period beginning in late February attacked Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke on air for the apparently unforgivable sin of testifying before Congress to advocate for legislation she supported (a bill mandating health insurance coverage for contraception) — turned to copyright law to go after one of his most vocal critics, the left-leaning political site Daily Kos. The site’s offense? Publishing a damning montage of Limbaugh’s controversial comments about Ms. Fluke.
Limbaugh’s curiously thin-skinned decision to resort to the quiet, low-cost censorship offered by copyright law doesn’t exactly break new ground. Limbaugh joins a dubious club that includes:
- Famed spoon-bending “paranormalist” Uri Gellar who sent a DMCA takedown notice to YouTube demanding that a decades-old NOVA documentary that exposed the secrets of Gellar’s “psychic” abilities on the basis that it purportedly included three seconds of copyrighted material.
- Fashion giant Ralph Lauren who sent a DMCA takedown notice to several sites, including BoingBoing, for their posting of a creepy over-photoshopped Ralph Lauren ad that made the unfortunate model look almost as absurd as the company’s lawyers.
- Universal Music Group — who by now should have its own wing in EFF’s Takedown Hall of Shame — who used the DMCA to temporarily silence conservative commentator Michelle Malkin. Malkin posted a video blog criticizing Universal artist Akon for his misogynistic lyrics and on-stage antics with a 15-year-old girl at a Trinidad concert, prompting Universal to lazily plead “copyright” and fire off the censorship request.
- NBC News and CBS News who, in the waning months of the 2008 presidential campaign, sent DMCA takedown notices to YouTube to shut down ads of the Obama and McCain campaigns respectively, ads that made clear fair uses of news footage to criticize their opponents.
While initiating frivolous legal processes to intimidate and silence critics is hardly new, Limbaugh actually seems to be taking a specific page out of the playbook of Michael Savage, his on-again/off-again compatriot and fellow conservative talk radio fixture.