While the events surrounding the leaking of the photographs of numerous celebrities mostly leave a sour aftertaste, some good has come out of the shameful incident. Apart from the fact that people have been inundated with warnings about data security, tips on how to increase it and plentiful if not tasteful representation of what happens when they choose to take it lightly, we have also seen some remorse on the offending side.

Some of the people who were initially enjoying the fruits of the hack that made the photos available to the public seem to have turned around and realized how, by viewing any of the leaked images, they were contributing to an atrocious invasion of privacy. Naturally, it’s not always easy to distinguish from those who are truly repentant from those who are only trying to protect themselves from the backlash that promises to be quite comprehensive and unsparing. We won’t try and place 4chan and their decision to include DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) protection into either of the categories, but will instead leave it up to you to make your own judgment.

Just a couple of days after the leak, and the heavy news coverage, with plentiful mentions of 4chan as one of the websites that were crucial for the early spreading of the images, the website’s founder, Chris Poole decided to introduce DMCA protection. Digital Millennium Copyright Act provides the public with an easy and relatively quick way to notify the authorities of material that is in violation of copyright laws, and should the complaint filed under the DMCA turn out to be valid, the offending materials are promptly removed.

However, even with the fact that most DMCA requests don’t take too long to process, it remains questionable just how useful this type of protection can be when applied to a site of this kind. To illustrate, DMCA removal requests filed against a provider of pirated videos results in the removal of the protected intellectual property, and thus, serves a real purpose. However, the way 4chan operates makes this type of protection almost redundant. You see, due to a huge number of users and posts made each day in numerous threads, content on the website gets pushed out quite soon after it was published in the first place. Since posting boards are limited to a predefined number of pages – eleven or sixteen, to be precise, depending on how hot a particular subject is, a post that was made on Monday may already be pushed out by Friday.

This is to say that most of the content placed on 4chan gets removed rather quickly anyway, which means that by the time that a DMCA request is processed and gets into effect, the content has already been deleted, or is at least moving in that direction. The only way this could actually prove beneficial is in cases when the same piece of content is being persistently reposted, however, the effectiveness of this kind of protection in such cases is questionable. This might lead to the conclusion that adherence to the law and concern for people’s privacy and intellectual property may not have been the main motivators behind the site’s management’s decision to introduce this kind of protection.

More cynical among us might even go as far as suggesting that this action is only supposed to provide the website with some kind of buffer from legal action that is definitively going to be taken by some of the victims of the leak, and perhaps show how management regrets the role the site has had in the

incident and wishes to prevent something similar from repeating in the future. Naturally, their motives will be revealed in time, as will the effectiveness of this kind of protection when applied to a site like 4chan.

Posted by Howard Bell

Howard has been writing about technology for quite some time now, especially if you count his diary entries where he laments the pressing programming issues hiding behind the painfully obvious lack of the long blocks in Tetris (also known as the ‘stupid game is cheating’ bug). He has since refined his approach, trying to take a slightly more impartial and a bit more informative voice, but still finds inspiration in the ways that different devices can annoy him to wit’s end.