When a recent article on DigitalRev pitted the GoPro Hero 3 against the Sony HDR-AS15, GoPro seemed to take things to heart and got nasty in almost the nastiest way imaginable – by sending them a DMCA takedown notice via their server host.
We are providing you this letter of notification pursuant to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act 17 USC??512(c) to make Softlayer.com aware of material on its network or system that infringes the exclusive copyrights of Woodman Labs, Inc d/b/a GoPro (“Company”). We hereby affirm that the undersigned is authorized to act on behalf of Company whose exclusive intellectual property rights we believe to be infringed as described herein.
We have a good faith belief that the Internet site found at digitalrev.com infringes the rights of the Company by using the following trademarks of the Company:
“GOPRO” Registered: 3/3/2009 US Registration# 3032989
“HERO” Registered: 12/20/2005 US Registration# 3308141
The Company represents that it has not authorized your customer to use the Infringing Material. Based upon information at its disposal on digitalrev.com, we believe that the statements in this notice are accurate and correctly describe the infringing nature and status of the Infringing Material.
Accordingly, we hereby demand that Softlayer.com immediately remove or disable access to the Infringing Material at:
As you may know, if this information is not removed after notice that complies with the DMCA, the Internet Service Provider may also be held liable for the copyright infringement.
I have a good faith belief that use of the trademark(s) described above in connection with the domain and URLs described above is not authorized by the trademark owner, and such use is not otherwise permissible under applicable law.
I represent that the information in this notification is true and correct and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the trademark owner.
Woodman Labs, Inc d/b/a GoPro
+1 (415) 738-2480 x7282
+1 (415) 814-5373 fax
Digitalrev.com removed the article in question – it is still down, but the Internets were troubled – which prompted this response from GoPro:
The letter that was posted next to the review on DigitalRev was not sent in response to the review. Obviously, we welcome editorial reviews of our products. This letter was sent because DigitalRev is not an authorized reseller of GoPro products and they were using images and had incorrect branding and representation of our product in their online commerce store. As part of our program – we ask merchants who are selling our product to use authorized images. That is why DigitalRev was contacted. But – our letter did not clearly communicate this and that is something we will correct.
The trouble with that reasoning is that the URL quoted in the letter clearly only points in one direction. It does not take the point to the DigitalRev site itself or to any of the GoPro products that the site sells, it takes you straight to the article in question which which apparently suggested that Sony had built a better action cam than the Hero 3.
Over at BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow had this to say:
However, the DMCA cannot be used to remove alleged trademark violations. As the name implies, the DMCA concerns itself with copyright, not trademark (that’s why it’s the DMCA and not the DMTA), and it is nothing less than fraud to send a DMCA notice over an alleged trademark violation. In other words, GoPro violated the law, and then offered a lame-ass, weak-ola excuse for it. You don’t need a trademark holder’s permission to use its marks in a review, nor do you need to be an authorized reseller to review products.
As GoPro surely knows.
Talk about kicking the hornets’ nest. The Interwebs have been very kind to GoPro over the years. What isn’t to love? A small company that nobody had heard about put together a kick-ass action cam for a price that everybody could afford and they kept improving it while keeping the price down. After having the market to themselves for a few years, a few competitors started to spring up – then Sony pulled out all stops and delivered what looks to be a superior product at a similar price point. It is not a nice position to find oneself in – but the Hero has been around for ages, people have bought accessories, there is brand loyalty…
As far as public relations blunders go, the DMCA takedown notice seems to be about as monumentally stupid as they come: A) It draws way more attention to the article than it would have otherwise received; B) Calling the independent review process into question will make you an enemy of bloggers and pundits the world over; and C) Using legal bullying to squirm out of a bad review looks patently awful. I want to believe that this was all just a big misunderstanding and that the people at GoPro were concerned about incorrect photographs. It was vaguely worded, which either means that the person who wrote it is bad his or her job – or that they kept the language deliberately ambiguous.