Scribd restores Inquisitr hoax source material after copyright dispute

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The logo of the website Inquisitr.com (Photo: Inquisitr/Handout)

The logo of the website Inquisitr.com (Photo: Inquisitr/Handout)

The document repository Scribd has restored source material following numerous copyright disputes filed by the news website Inquisitr over a story published by The Desk in June.

Last month, The Desk published a lengthy expose on a widely-reported story authored by freelance journalist John Albrecht, Jr. in which the writer claimed to have interviewed a woman over a demonic birthday cake purchased from a Costco store in Arizona.

The story was later proven to be a hoax orchestrated by Albrecht and his girlfriend as part of a series of stories the writer published on numerous other websites. Inquisitr fired Albrecht after The Desk brought the story to the attention of Daniel Treisman, the website’s editor-in-chief.

The Desk relied upon an internal company document and a draft agreement sent by the Inquisitr to freelance reporters as part of the story on Albrecht’s report for the site. The material was published on Scribd, the Internet Archive and referenced on Twitter over the objection of Treisman, who threatened legal action if the material was not removed.

Days later, a trademark attorney from New York filed several notices of copyright infringement with the three online platforms claiming the documents posted by The Desk were in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a 1990s-era statute that regulates the use of copyrighted material on websites based in the United States.

Following the notices filed by attorney Daniel Ilkay, Scribd removed the material from its service. Twitter responded by hiding a post that referenced the material on its website. Both sites confirmed they would restore the material within a two-week period if they received a counter-notification from The Desk and did not receive a legal objection filed by Ilkay or Inquisitr.

The Internet Archive, a San Francisco-based non-profit media repository website, did not remove the material.

On Monday, Scribd confirmed via e-mail it was restoring the source material after it failed to receive a formal legal challenge from Inquisitr. Twitter, which received a counter-notification from The Desk last month, has yet to reverse their decision to block the post from public view.

The episode between The Desk and Inquisitr was similar to one two years ago in which San Francisco news station KTVU-TV (Channel 2) tapped the DMCA in an effort to remove video footage from one of its news broadcasts in which anchor Tori Campbell misidentified four pilots aboard an aircraft that crashed at San Francisco International Airport in July 2013.

The Desk objected to KTVU’s attempt to scrub the footage from YouTube and other websites. Version of the video uploaded by The Desk for use in news stories on the incident were restored within two weeks.

(Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a headline that stated the source material was removed because of allegations of trademark infringement; the allegations involved copyright infringement, not trademark infringement. Additionally, a paragraph in the story has been edited to clarify the allegation of copyright infringement.)