We received a curious
letter in our email the other day from the legal department of the
popular search engine Google.
Apparently, they had received an even
more curious letter in their email from the folks at AirTran
Airways, which used to be called Valujet but changed its name after some negative publicity
under their old name. After that name change, someone decided to hack the
AirTran website, and we have a mirror
of the hacked site.
AirTran apparently doesn't want people to know about their former
plane-crashing ways, so they invoked our old friend, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act
(DMCA). Under the DMCA, any service provider who provides access to
material which allegedly infringes copyright must remove access
to that material upon official notice from the copyright holder or
risk being held liable themselves for contributory copyright
The bulk of the material mirrored on our
website is almost certainly a parody protected under the First
Amendment. (We also included a mirror of the original home page for archival purposes.) Despite this, AirTran decided not to ask us to remove the
material but to demand that Google remove it from its search
results. So, pursuant to its DMCA obligations, Google has removed some
of the pages in question from its search listings. Thus, a
search for "AirTran" on our website returns fewer results than it
might — and a note on the bottom of the page explaining why.
Google has a history of responding in this way to DMCA takedown
requests, most famously when the Church of Scientology demanded
that Google stop pointing to noted Scientology critic Xenu.Net.
It remains unclear if this is the start of a campaign to get the
ValuJet pages removed from our site entirely, or just an ineffective
attempt to prevent people from learning about them. We'll certainly
post any updates we get.