In August of 2013, Automattic was criticized for its role in taking down Oliver Hotham’s website after the Straight Pride UK group filed a DMCA takedown notice with WordPress.com. In the Guardian article, WordPress.com admitted that the takedown notice was an abuse of the law. In November of 2013, Automattic announced that it teamed up with Hotham in two separate lawsuits.
The lawsuits were filed in federal court under Section 512(f) of the DMCA. Section 512(f) is the provision that allows users to hold people accountable when they make false infringement accusations.
Torrentfreak reports that Automattic has won the case with a $25K settlement. According to court documents, United States Magistrate Judge Joseph Spero wrote a report and recommendation in favor of Automattic and Hotham. The courts agreed with his report and recommendation. Since the defendant chose to default, the courts saw no reason to require further expenditure of resources and awarded the victory to Automattic.
The settlement is split between three parties: Automattic’s employee time, attorneys, and Hotham.
It is Ordered and Adjudged that defendant Nick Steiner pay damages in the amount of $960.00 for Hotham’s work and time, $1,860.00 for time spent by Automattic’s employees, and $22,264.00 for Automattic’s attorney’s fees, for a total award of $25,084.00.
There are two things I take away from the victory. First, it sets a precedent that Automattic can and will fight against those who abuse the DMCA takedown procedure. Second, attorneys are expensive.