If you'll forgive visiting once more with a frequent topic of this blog, we have to talk yet again about the DMCA. Specifically, about the ability of seemingly any company to use the DMCA for other than what it was ostensibly created, which is to protect copyright on the internet. We've seen the fruits of the maximalist position that most corporations have taken: every video that even makes mention of a product ends up flagged, regardless of the dictates of fair use. It's rote at this point to say that the implementation of the DMCA has been manipulated to the point of near-uselessness, but it's worth saying over and over again, in the hopes something might change.
What's equally true of the abuse of the system is the way in which it can be used to silence critics as well, and while it doesn't rise to the level of a First Amendment violation as it's not the government undertaking these actions, it still flies in the face of the generally accepted principle of being able to take your lumps if you put out a product.
Offending that principle this time is Proctorio, a browser extension designed to prevent cheating in at-home testing, a seemingly important tool for the COVID Age. As reported in Techdirt, a security expert named Erik Johnson downloaded the Proctorio extension and dug into its code, as anyone with the knowhow could do, in order to assess how the program really works and how it might be failing. He then tweeted out his findings, along with a link to his further writeup on Pastebin, which included snippets of the code to illustrate his points.
If you've read my other iterations on what are versions of this same story, you probably know what happens next: Proctorio got Johnson's tweets taken down via DMCA requests, and had the Pastebin post memory-holed on the grounds that sharing those parts of the code violated their copyright. As Geigner points out in Techdirt, Proctorio's claim of copyright violation would have some merit were it not a clear case of critique as provided for under fair use. Was Proctorio misapprehending copyright protections and violations, or were they merely looking to take down a post that was less than positive about their product? It's impossible for those of us on the outside to say for certain, but we probably have a reasonable guess.