When it comes to matters of copyright, some companies have an earned reputation as being attack dogs. They are known for filing takedown notices at the drop of a hat, throwing lawsuits around at will and generally intimidating anyone that they feel gets too close to their intellectual property.
Though there is nothing wrong with being aggressive about your copyright, especially when you make your living from it. The problem comes when companies cross the line and sacrifice the rights of users and the public in their bid to protect their work.
These attack dogs are dangerous for many reasons. First, they are the ones most likely to file takedown notices, including against bloggers. Second, they often times trample free speech and run afoul of the law. Finally, they also end up writing both the copyright news we read and many of the copyright laws we follow.
So who are the most aggressive copyright holders? Though such a list is entirely subjective, here is my personal list of the most aggressive major copyright holders I have been tracking.
7. The Associated Press
Much of the AP’s current reputation when it comes to copyright stems from it recent controversy with the Drudge Retort. But while much of that incident was blown of proportion, as well as much of the AP’s stance on copyright, there is no doubt that they have been very aggressive protecting their work, including suing Verisign for their Moreover news service.
Though the AP is not as aggressive as many paint it to be, there is little doubt that they monitor, track and protect their content very thoroughly.
Among the copyright astute, Disney has a reputation that is almost beyond reproach. Despite a history of making blockbuster hits out of public domain stories, the house of mouse has been notoriously aggressive about protecting its rights.
Though Disney has been known to file more than a few copyright suits, its greatest success has always been in lobbying and legislation. Disney has far more to do with many of the current copyright laws than either the RIAA or the MPAA.
5. The International Olympic Committee
After the closing ceremonies, we tend not to hear much from the IOC, however, they remain one of the most aggressive copyright holders pretty much at any point.
This Olympics alone has seem them demand the removal of Olympic torrents from The Pirate Bay, thousands of takedowns on YouTube and even a controversy involving a likely mistaken takedown notice.
The IOC is notoriously protective of both its video and of its symbol, the five interlocking rings.
4. The National Football League
Though sports organizations are known for being protective of their copyrights, the NFL trumps pretty much everyone in this category. They famously demanded a takedown of a video only displaying the copyright notice from the Super Bowl.
In fact, they got it taken down twice.
When it comes to copyright, it seems that the NFL is in full blitz mode.
When one things about aggressive copyright holders, Viacom is usually somewhere near the top of the list. Though they are famous for their 1.6 billion dollar lawsuit against YouTube, it is their hailstorm of takedown notices that really tells the story.
According to YouTomb, Viacm is the single largest sender of DMCA notices to the site, nearly doubling its nearest U.S.-based competitor, the WWE.
2. Warner Brothers
Though it would be easy to simply put the MPAA and the RIAA in the two and one slots, I decided to focus on companies, not trade groups. However, out of the “AA” crowd, Warner Brothers is a stand out in terms of aggressiveness.
They have been behind much of the copyright news over the past few years and are continuing to play a key role in the ongoing copyfight.
1. NBC Universal
Universal’s aggressiveness knows almost no limits. Not only have they been at the forefront of many RIAA lawsuits, but they have pulled their songs from Myspace, yanked their shows from iTunes (though they have since hinted at a return), blocked their shows from being recorded on DVRs, sued Redlasso and have been very aggressive about having their clips removed from YouTube.
However, their most controversial move was filing a DMCA notice against Stephanie Lenz, who posted a 30-second YouTube clip of her baby dancing with Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” barely audible in the background.
However, what makes Universal unique is that their aggressiveness is bound with progressiveness. They helped found the video site Hulu, which plays many NBC shows for free, and have been generally very forward-thinking with their copyright strategies.
As with any list, not everyone is going to agree with the order nor are they going to believe everyone of importance was included. So that brings me to my question. Who did I leave out and what would you change on this list?
Feel free to leave your comments below.