The anonymous message board where leaked nudes of celebrities first appeared last weekend has changed its rules to comply with US copyright laws.
Visitors to the notorious website 4chan will now be stopped from uploading protect images that come under America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA).
The website – best known for its /b/ discussion board which is home to content ranging from lolcats to pornography –has previously shunned copyright laws entirely, relying on its fast-paced discussions (which means that pictures tend to disappear within hours after posting) to shield it from copyright holders.
As the website’s own FAQ states: “Threads expire and are pruned by 4chan's software at a relatively high rate. Since most boards are limited to ten pages, content is usually available for only a few hours or days before it is removed.”
Now, users that attempt to upload images that have been the subject of a written infringement notice from a rights holder will have their images blocked, and repeat offenders will have their access “terminated”.
Although it’s not been made explicit by 4chan’s management, it’s widely assumed that this new, stricter approach to copyright is a pre-emptive response to the ongoing FBI investigation into the leaks of dozens of nude images of US and UK celebrities.
Under current US law copyright owners (ie celebrities affected by the hacks including Jennifer Lawrence and Kate Upton) could collect up to $150,000 in “statutory damages” for every infringing photograph on 4chan.
This hasn’t worried 4chan in the past (apart from with child pornography - for which it has an auto-removal and auto-ban system) but the scale of the leak and the media attention it has attracted may have forced them to think again.
In addition to this it’s been alleged that one of the celebrities affected by the leak was a minor at the time the photos were taken – allowing law enforcement to use far more effective child pornography laws.