Straight Pride Goes to Malibu
An interesting kerfuffle has arisen in Britain over gay rights, straight pride, and just what a journalist, or for that matter a press release, is. Straight Pride UK is another run-of-the-mill reactionary group pushing for rollbacks of the progress made in LGBTQ rights, similar to the men’s rights movement or the ever-present Christian persecution complex. Members of privileged groups don’t like having their privilege challenged or even acknowledged, even when granting their marginalized counterparts equal status would neither break their legs nor pick their pockets (unlike what neo-Nazi groups are currently doing to queer kids in Russia).
“Straight Pride admire [sic] President Vladimir Putin of Russia for his stance and support of his country’s traditional values.”
Enter Oliver Hotham, a history student and freelance journalist who decided Straight Pride UK would make an interesting interview subject for his blog. The group agreed to take his questions via email, and then responded to those questions with an email entitled “Press Release.” Hotham took their press release, cleaned up the grammar and spelling, organized their message for clarity, and published it, as journalists do. The interview was read far and wide, reaching audiences that might never have heard of Straight Pride UK, at which point the organization sent a DMCA takedown notice to WordPress, who promptly removed the post from their site.
For those less familiar with the arcane world of journalism and public relations, a press release is a carefully worded document distributed to journalists by a business or organization with the hope that it will be picked up by the press and distributed as far and wide as possible, preferably in its original, complete form. It must be carefully worded because, as a matter of public record, it can be used as evidence in the court of public opinion. Every statement must be groomed to be taken out of context and used to represent the organization, because journalists and organizations with opposing viewpoints will likely do just that. Though a press release is technically a copyrighted work, it defeats the purpose of writing one to claim copyright infringement when the press, well, releases it.
DMCA abuse is nothing new, but this is definitely a surprising application of the law. The Digital Millennium Copyright Act went into effect in 2000, and actually does a lot of good in protecting writers and artists from online infringement. However, sections of the law have been used, for example, to make it a crime to install customized software on one’s own devices, to remove digital rights management data from legally purchased media, or as in this case, simply to censor the Internet.
The Internet, however, does not like being censored, and therefore the story is not yet over. As prologue, long ago when the Internet was much younger (as were we all), a group set out to publish aerial photos of the entire California coastline, which unfortunately included Barbra Streisand’s lovely Malibu home. Streisand sued the group to have her property erased from the records, a move that backfired spectacularly when she not only lost the case, but the entire Internet became aware, over and over again, of exactly where her home was and what it looked like (except for the creepy/twee doll mall in her basement). The Streisand Effect was born, and today, Straight Pride UK is experiencing a similar whack-a-mole struggle to remove increasingly stubborn information.
Other outlets continue to reproduce the interview, with many resisting the ongoing DMCA takedown attempts. WordPress has responded that this is, indeed, an attempt at censorship, but has not reinstated the post. Meanwhile, Straight Pride has hidden their Twitter feed, but has released a statement on Facebook by Peter Siderow of the “Straight Forward Bureau, Moscow” accusing Oliver Hotham of being “very naughty,” and noting the heterosexual activists' experience of being “harassed, scared, stalked, [and having] bomb threats.” We’ve seen what’s going on in Russia, and it is not that.