On Thursday night, October 22, 2009, Hurricane Electric (our upstream Internet provider at one of our major colocation facilities) took a step that represents a dangerous and damaging escalation in provider-based censorship.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce sent Hurricane Electric a DMCA take down letter complaining about a website spoofing the Chamber's obstructionism on climate change policies that was created by MF/PL member the Yes Men (read more about the spoof).
Hurricane Electric immediately ordered us to remove the spoofed site or face a turn-off of service. We responded that such a demand was:
- arbitrary since it represented a legally untested complaint;
- unconstitutional since it quashed the fair use of logos in a satirical way; and
- overreaching because it affected 3/4 of of our membership (over 300 organizations) whose websites, email and other online tools would be taken down in such an action.
(Some of these positions were later developed in detail by the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)
We asked Hurricane Electric for more time to consider options. Hurricane Electric gave us until the next day and then, without any more notice, shut down all our operations the same night at 10:40 pm America/New_York time. This remarkably destructive action was taken without notifying us and completely contradicts discussions that we had had with them.
It took us an hour and a half to convince Hurricane Electric to restore service (which came back online at 12:10 am America/New_York time). The spoof site was moved to another one of our colocation centers (via hosting.com). On October 29, we were forwarded a DMCA take notice sent to hosting.com, prompting us to move the site yet again.
The site remains on line.
MF/PL's long-held position has always been clear. We believe that all expression that is constitutionally protected is protected on the Internet. We believe that the use of logos and titles on spoof sites represents fair use. And we believe that the commercial bullying of providers to violate fundamental free speech rights is a destructive development that must be stopped.
See Yes Men/May First People Link press release and the media coverage: