Julia Schramm and DMCA Takedowns – a Pirate and Her Copyright
Julia Schramm, member of the national board of the Pirate Party Germany, published a book which came out a few days ago. Since she is a publicist, this should not have come as a surprise. Julia announced the book well before she was elected into the board of the German Pirate Party during April of 2012. Time passed by, and suddenly – one gets the impression – there was a book! It was published this week and promptly illegal downloads became available, which were taken down by her publisher, a subsidiary of Random House.
The publishing created some discussions as well as accusations. According to rumours, Julia received an advance payment of 100,000 € from the publisher. Julia herself did not confirm these rumours, but we can guess that the amount is close to the real amount according to her earlier statements. In an interview with Welt online, she explained some of the details from the contract. For example: she is not allowed to discuss her payment and she will re-gain the intellectual property rights for her book in ten years (when she plans to make it publicly available). According to the same contract, no one who downloads the book will be charged. They receive a warning (a “yellow card”), and might be charged if they then download it again.
Julia is already since before a very controversial person within the German Pirate Party. She used to be part of the “Spackeria” and roused complaints when she stated that “privacy is so Eighties”. Later, she described the term “intellectual property” as “disgusting”. This description now comes back to haunt her, whilst her publisher defends Julia’s intellectual property.
However, it seems, signing the contract did not turn out to be the best decision for Julia. Being part of the Random House Group, the subsidiary ‘Knaus Verlag’ is sure to defend the rights they bought no matter the cost. Soon after the book was published, the first illegal download appeared – a Dropbox file, linked from a website that was set up for this sole reason. According to rumours, this website was set up by the German tabloid ‘Bild’, in order to get a nice story from the expected takedown notice. Unfortunately it was not possible to confirm these rumours. The illegal downloads did not occur solely on Dropbox: there was also a copy uploaded to the German Pirate Party Wiki.
The publisher had all these files taken down via a DMCA notice. These takedowns then obviously led to international media reporting that a prominent pirate acts in contradiction to the party values. The German manifesto states:
“We therefore demand that copying, providing access to, storing and using creative products for non-commercial purposes must not just be legalized, but actively promoted to improve the public availability of information, knowledge and culture, because this is a prerequisite for the social, technological and economic development of our society.”
One blog already suggested, that paying 100,000 € is not a large sum if the “content-mafia” wants to disable the Pirate Party. Having a well known Pirate Party member sign a contract that allows to violate the party values in her name is sure to damage the public opinion of the whole organization.
What makes the situation strange is the fact, that the German Pirate Party officials did not issue any official statement concerning the issue and their and/or Julias position. On request, we were told that “the discussion around the publication of the book “Klick Mich” shows impressively the big necessity to consider new solutions for copyright. The helpless actions of the publisher Random House, facing the leaked online versions, shows how much publishers lost control in the informational age. It is about time to discuss a reformation of the copyright laws. Julia could not have offered a better example than the publication of her book.”
This half-official statement is most likely not enough to calm the media and the outraged pirates. A strong statement by Julia, explaining her reasons and the situation with her publishing company, might work more effectively. Calls for Julia to step down can already be heard, unfortunately she was not available for a statement for Pirate Times.