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If a Company Doesn't Like a Product Review, Should They Be Able to Take it Down?

07.30.13 @ 6:19PM Tags : , , , , ,

Den Lennie F-Stop AcademyThat’s exactly what happened to Den Lennie of F-Stop Academy, even though they owned all of the equipment in the review. He posted a review of the Rotolight Anova, Dedo Softbox, and Kino Flo Celeb, and while the review had been up for some time, one of those companies was not happy with the result. They issued a DMCA takedown notice to Vimeo, and the video was removed. Check out Den’s video below for the explanation:

After responding that they did not think the testing procedures were fair, Rotolight posted this on Den Lennie’s Facebook:

We would be delighted for you to do a side by side comparison of our light, all that we would kindly ask is that we are given the opportunity to ensure that the camera and lighting are setup correctly to ensure a fair and representive result. We have no problem with it being an independent test, i have sent you my mobile number via PM and i hope you’ll take us up on that offer.

We have had many in depth reviews of the colour and output of the Anova, including the Canadian Society of Cinematographers who specifically said (under test conditions similar to yours) “Many lights, especially LEDs, produce a spiky spectrum or have large chunks of spectrum missing, but the Anova showed a nice smooth gradation through the whole visible light spectrum, which in turn means rich, beautiful and natural colour rendition in the subjects you are shooting” (

You are completely right, we should have just contacted you directly to arrange the re-test rather than acted via Vimeo, please accept our sincere apologies for that. We of course have no issue at all with you posting the results of the re-test all we wanted was just to ensure the test was representative, there was nothing more to it than that.

I realize there are millions of videos, but the burden of proof should be on the person requesting the takedown, otherwise what would stop anyone from trying to pull down any video they don’t like — for any reason? That isn’t too far from YouTube’s policy – they’d rather take it down quickly and figure it out later than leave it up and let the person issuing the DMCA notice prove why it should come down (though YouTube does give more options to copyright holders to actually benefit from the infringing video). This is the way the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) handles these issues, where companies can issue them at any time and get quick results, letting the real proof be sorted out later. That’s what happened in the GoPro/Digital Rev debacle a few months back, where a review was taken down for bogus reasons (but later restored).

If a company really wants to control their image, should they be able to submit takedown notices for every bad review on the internet? Even if someone is posting a video just to cause trouble, should their free speech not be protected?

I think it’s important to note that in my history at NFS, we’ve never once had a company approach us because they didn’t like what we had to say, and that includes advertisers who we have freely criticized while they had ads running on the site. People are always going to complain about something, but if you make good products and have quality customer service, the positive voices will more than likely drown out the few negative ones.

What do you think about all of this? Would you do a re-test as Den says he will, or would you stick by the original review?



We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

Description image 59 COMMENTS

  • Paul Russell on 07.30.13 @ 6:31PM

    Den has stood his ground, he’s made his point.
    He should retest but no way should anybody from rotolight touch his camera, not unless rotolight are going to provide a camera assistant for every person who buys one of their lamps.

    Den should also choose the location and keep it real life rather than idealised studio, unless rotolight are going to provide studio hire for everybody who buys one of their lamps.

    Total PR mismanagement by Rotolight. Silly silly.

  • I kind of get where they’re coming from, but… LAME.

  • I think what many people are missing is that the DMCA was used NOT to bring down copyright infringement (as it was designed to do) but rather to take down a REVIEW (free speech) because someone didn’t approve of it.

    So, if anyone has an axe to grind against me, they could effectively shut down my YouTube & Vimeo channels with takedown notices that are completely farcical – simply for the fact that they could.

    That’s scary as all hell.

  • KTVU (a SF based TV station) pulled their quite amusing (for some) gaffe from YouTube based on the DCMA grounds. Personally – and this dovetails from another NFS post – I think it should fall under the Fair Use doctrine.

    In Den Lennie’s case, neither Vimeo nor the manufacturers involved should have a right to remove a review on the Digital Copyright Act premise. Hypothetically, a reviewer should have a legal document denying the manufacturers these pseudo-rights. I hope an entertainment biz attorney can throw guys like this a bone and draft a quickie that protects him under these circumstances.
    PS. I also wonder if there’s a difference of the product reviews that are done on loaned items vs. those legitimately purchased by the reviewer. Any legal experts out there?

    • You can counterfile. I successfully contested a claim from the BBC about one of my YouTube videos on the grounds of satire. It does take several weeks, though.

  • Steven Huber on 07.30.13 @ 6:49PM

    That’s really an egregious abuse of the DMCA system. For shame Rotolight!

  • shaun wilson on 07.30.13 @ 6:55PM

    At what point was copyright impinged as per the DMCA requirements?

    • Exactly, it wasn’t. That’s what is so troublesome about all of this.

      • JOE , How ironic and almost contradicting that JOE MARINE would ask a question like this considering that this site via him, removed a comment post of mines not to far back relating to a DIGITAL BOLEX post.

        What i was really upset about was the answer that (You) joe gave for my removal of my comment. You stated that it was basically a repetitive rant about the their product, even though i was only responding to repetitive suspect posts that the company has made about its product coming out soon for over the past year.

        My post was not personal , i did not curse, call anyone names, everything i stated was due to the fact that the company to date has not had any real video sample footage, a physical prototype floating in the wild, or anything other than a picture floating around about its suspect camera. I even stated that i hoped that the camera came to light and proved me wrong and my post was removed.

        So no i do not think it was fair for this paticular post to be removed , just like it was not fair for my removal of comments relating directly to the subject matter of DIGITAL BOLEX.

    • That’s the scary part, @Shaun – YouTube and Vimeo will always air on the side of caution and simply remove the video right away – to avoid being sued themselves for aiding in the infringement. This effectively places the burden on the user to fight to get their legitimate video back up.

  • Folks, sympathetic as this case may be, every single reaction has failed badly on the front of lumping rights issues into one huge copyright category. Even though the DMCA is designed around copyright abuses, there are also rights to privacy and rights to publicity common law principles, usually worked out on a state-by-state basis (in our Federal/state system at least) that have nothing to do with Federal copyright protections. These violations can always be a basis for a takedown request, under a more complex balancing test and with less explicit copyright-style protections.

    The bad outcome from this hissy fit is an endless amount of crowing about how it’s a matter of copyright, and Rotolight didn’t play fair. There are other ways to get in trouble, folks, so be careful.

  • It really shows the quality of a company. Instead of excepting the review as a challenge or positive criticism and providing some sort of creative rebuttal, they instead attacked the guy.


  • I do reviews and videos and generally give a manufacturer the chance to fix things if they are not what they are supposed to be. I have also returned product without saying a word about it because it failed in some way.

    That said, when negative reviews happen, if the company ignored requests, I let them stand and will go after them hardcore if they complain about a negative review. They have no ground to stand on, and I would post the original video in as many places as possible to prove the point. There is no copyright protection here, and there is no way you censor a customer owned opinion. That is how sites like Angie’s List can get away with what they do.

    I was actually pretty interested in seeing those lights, but now, forget it. Respond with your pocket book and response by reposting and re-Tweeting this…

  • Mis-using the DMCA to get rid of a unsatisfactory review is cheating and bullying in my humble opinion. I’m also quite disappointed in Vimeo, a company I’ve worked with a lot since the host a dozen or so of my videos.

  • Its bullshit, if you bought the product you can do what ever you want on said product. This isnt a situation where your under an agreement with the manufacturer. I also fault vimeo, its really lazy to instantly take something down on request, there should be a proper investigation first. Bullshit!

  • This is probably a violation of freedom of speech and he should sue Rotolight. They can’t get away with this. A critique is and should be allowed. We should (a) all write Rotolight and complain and (b) stop buying their products and (c) continue to let EVERYONE know about this. They’ll be sorry.

    • It has nothing to do with the “freedom of speech”, as these are private entities.
      However, Rotolight can probably be penalized for filing a false claim under the DCMA statures but it’d have to come from the government. A victim would have to report it first though and, with hims being a British subject, that’s kind of a long path. The RL actual punishment would have to come from the market from people refusing to purchase the company product. When you think about it, the independent film making is a rather tight knit community. The word gets around.

  • When someone files a complaint to take down video for copyright infringement on YouTube, one signs the official oath that he or she owns rights for that video. If later they back out by saying “we should have just contacted you directly to arrange the re-test rather than acted via Vimeo”, they are asking for a lawsuit to be files against them for lying under oath. I would if I were Den, its a win-win.

  • I will never purchase a product from Rotolight and I was considering it before this for my YouTube channel. I have Tweeted this and Facebooked it to my entire fan base hoping that Rotolight suffers some substantial backlash and loss of sales from this to send a message to them and other companies that this is an abuse of power aimed at preventing negative information from getting to the consumers. This makes my blood boil!

  • I will never purchase a product from Rotolight and I was considering it before this for my YouTube channel. I have Tweeted this and Facebooked it to my entire fan base hoping that Rotolight suffers some substantial backlash and loss of sales from this to send a message to them and other companies that this is an abuse of power aimed at preventing negative information from getting to the consumers. This makes my blood boil!

    You should sue them!

  • The troubling aspect of this case is, the fact that Rotolight is making a copyright claim based on the sole fact that their product was used in making the video and discussed in the video.

    So if I shoot a film on a Canon 5D, Canon can block its distribution and claim copyright ownership?

    And can any subject on any news broadcast contend copyright over the broadcast because they were the subject of discussion?

    A claim of slander would be something else (almost as ridiculous in this case, but at least slightly more applicable), but COPYRIGHT infringement? This absolutely should not stand.

    • To file a DMCA claim, they must have a good faith belief their copyright is being infringed. Filing a claim in bad faith opens Rotolight up to legal remedies.

      • That’s the point. Based on the information available to the public Rotolight clearly misused the DMCA and has to face the consequencies (which we can already see).

        Vimeo on the other side has a process ( how to handle notice and counter-notice. See point 5 (A statement by you UNDER PENALTY OF PERJURY that the information in your notice is accurate…).

        It’s good to see that it’s getting harder and harder to benefit from misuse. That’s a great example!

    • The silly thing is that this came up years ago in 3d objects in movies. I believe it was a company that claimed it had image rights to its trash can that a 3d representation of was used in a film, we have got down to incidental use of music broadcast during documentaries. Now are we talking about extending this to filming anything, or are we talking about writing on units and manuals, in any case ridiculous, the law was obviously not designed to prevent filming everything. The trash can thing, and the one against the Microsoft windows trash can is also. I feel like these are an overextention of the law, that should be there to ensure a minimal standard for profit, not amaxmal one.

  • mysteryliner on 07.31.13 @ 5:26AM

    hey DL: We liked your video you posted on the top of this page. And we like that you own one of our sunglasses.
    But because the way your spiky hair stands in front of them, the design of our sunglasses isn’t seen to it’s full beauty.
    Because of that we issued a DMCA takedown notice.

    sure show’s the beauty of internet freedom right?

  • So if you buy a product from Rotolight, does the product now come with a supplementary gag?

  • Streisand effect anyone?

  • Check out his wall:

    Seems like Rotolight have now removed what they posted…. ? Hiding it away perhaps is the purpose.

  • Holy shit this is an unbelievable use of the DMCA…

  • How could anyone disagree with this post? I am surprised that vimeo removed the video and disappointed with Rotolight. Truthfully, I was disappointed with Rotolight’s LED ring as it is not very sturdy and their customer service was underwhelming. Keep posting honest, unbiased and accurate reviews.


    Lisa Segal

  • P.S. Really surprised that Rotolight was not concerned about the bad PR when making such a move.


    Lisa Segal

    • Wild Biker Bill on 07.31.13 @ 9:24PM

      I would be very sure someone was having a major brain fart that day. Whoever they are, I am sure they are getting a real education right now. Nobody gave a moments thought about “What could go wrong…?”

  • Totally inappropriate use of DMCA by Rotolight. Hopefully the bad press will tell them how ridiculous they’ve been. I’m sure they technically had a right to remove the video because he showed the copyrighted product, but even so, it was only a workaround to get the bad product review removed. I doubt Vimeo had any legal room, but shame on them for being bossed around.

  • Donald McPherson on 07.31.13 @ 11:33AM

    Does this mean that Top Gear on BBC will be taken off as they slag off so many cars?

  • “We have had many in depth reviews of the colour and output of the Anova, including the Canadian Society of Cinematographers who specifically said (under test conditions similar to yours) “Many lights, especially LEDs, produce a spiky spectrum or have large chunks of spectrum missing, but the Anova showed a nice smooth gradation through the whole visible light spectrum, which in turn means rich, beautiful and natural colour rendition in the subjects you are shooting”

    Seriously makes me question if these in-depth reviews from the CSC were factual or bought/paid for. This text certainly reads like it was written from a marketing person.

    Rotolight was gone completely the wrong way on this one, I certainly won’t be buying any of their products anytime soon.

  • Unfortunately, this kind of thing has happened before and until there are penalties for a false or abusive claim, I’m not sure what solution there is besides rewritting the DMCA.

  • Good piece of reporting showing a true to life application of a product… an item that was purchased (I wonder if Rotolight is saying that unit is defective?) rather than an item “lent/given” for a shining review.

    The better course of action for Rotolight is to say ok this is what you found … choose anyone of our products and you compare it again with you taking the footage and establishing the parameters. If it again proves to be too green then how about working with us to resolve this situation.

    Everybody/company makes mistakes it is how you recover from them that is vital.
    If their product is too green how can you compensate/ fix it (for free of course).

  • Wild Biker Bill on 07.31.13 @ 9:04PM

    Rotolight says Den Lennie should have contacted them before posting the video.
    Did it occur to Rotolight to contact Den Lennie before issuing the TakeDown Request?
    What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

    If I was in Den Lennie’s shoes I’d be very tempted to simply repost the original review.

  • Well, this outlines many strange, interesting and scary facts.
    It reminds me of all those P2P downloads on various file sharing sites, which have been on for decades, and how, multi-million and billion enterprises, finding school kids, to send to jail, for copyright violations. The kids are small fries, and, whereas famous hollywood directors and producers, as well as famous singers get away with Very Obvious copyright infringement, these kids are made victims, of obviously terrible copyright laws, in most countries, around the world.
    The difference here, which makes it even more unfair, and thus, more scary, is the fact, that there was no notice sent, to the reviewer, and no reasons posted or stated, and he was not even allowed the opportunity, of giving his side of the story. This is a complete breach of Natural Justice, and Fair Play. If anything, I think, BOTH Vimeo and Rotolight are Liable for Damages, for many things (including Defamation, lack of fair play, muzzling Constitutional Right’s of Free Speech, maybe even damage to business and business reputation etc etc).
    I think, its high time, big corporations are pulled up, for ‘Bullying’.
    I am COMPLETELY with ‘Den Lennie’, on this, and I also congratulate him, for taking a stand, while completely maintaining his dignity. This is OUTRIGHT DISGUSTING.

  • Robolight “stepped-on-their-dick” … BIG time. Talk about BAD publicity for their company. Without their DMC take-down, I’d never have heard of this … now everyone the ‘net knows that their LED has an alleged BAD green spike. This is a classic case of the Law-of-Unintended-Consequences.

  • I woild like to voice an opinion, not because I think, or am implying, that it applies to this case here, but because of a general problem of use of legal requests and threats on the internet and in general, at times misused impropperly. This shoild not be taken as legal advice, but general comment on law reform. Therefore it bus not a substitute for proper legal advice, and proper adequate legal advice should still be sought. Forgive the errors, from my mobile:

    Legal requests can be bluff to get the other party to comply. It forces the other party into costs to seek legal advice, stress, time and hassle. If they try to take it to court then this increases to the best level. In my opinion, the party issuing the request should go through the hasle of proving their request, and preferably, in a case of a request to a third party, through taking the second party to court and proving it there first, and if applicable, getting the judge to issue the request. Still an opinion, but all other illegitimate bluff requests, that would have no basis, which are used, should be illegal, the matter reported to the various legal and government bodies overseeing misconduct and those accrediting. Further to this opinion, I think laws should be passed with jail time for deliberately trying to bluff/intimidate, as this conduct goes greatly against people’s human rights, liberty, freedom of speech, cost and justice. As said above, I’m not implying this is the case here, but just commenting on the general area.

    A company in vimeo’s situation, that I imagine could possibly be sued by the owner of the content for taking it down, could seek legal advice on the legalities and what they should do, and what the other parties should do, and advise the sender of any request what the other party should obtain before they will take it down, likely go through the expense of getting a court order first (as I think some companies already require) and that through proving it against the second party that posted the content. As it is a member oriented company they could also advise the content poster of this so the poster can fight it in court if they wish (courts should be robust enough to require one part to adequately prove something beyond doubt or base without requiring the participation or cost of the second or third party, to which they could then object too and if desired take it to another full court case if they wish, but I did say “should” not that it already is that way. These proceadures would greatly improve the delivery, speed, efficacy and cost of justice, with extra emphasis of proof and initial cost on the party initiating action (that latter can be reclaimed), thus reducing the volume of action. But these are only wishes.

  • Matt Stevens on 08.1.13 @ 11:22AM

    Looks like one company has lost me forever.

  • This is a clear misuse and misinterpretation of the law. I’ve been a creative for over 30 years, a lawyer for 13 years, and a communications law professor for 2 years. The free speech clause of the U.S. constitution trumps the DMCA, if it even applies here. Review and critique are especially protected under U.S. law. The manufacturers actions were wrong, the DMCA misapplied, and Vimeo’s actions weak.

    That said, a service such as Vimeo has every right to contractually limit your use of their service, which is something they have likely done in their terms of use. So perhaps the real solution is to use a service that is unable to misuse such force against your creative expression. Perhaps using S3 (Vimeo is built on top of S3 anyway) is the way to go or some other content-agnostic service.

    The whole incident is simply a shame.

  • If a Company Doesn’t Like a Product Review, Should They Be Able to Take it Down?

    My answer here is the company should take the product review. If they have a good product, they wouldn’t worry about taking down their customer, or critic’s reviews.

    And if the company really has a nasty product, it should be taken as a lesson.

  • Funny enough, I can’t even get to – their site seems to be down.

  • A bad effect of this news hysteria has been a unilateral presumption that online video streaming service providers have no legal obligation (and no internal policy) to respect trademarks — no less, claims to invasion of privacy/invasion of publicity/commercial libel. In fact, they do, and they act upon, these grounds not only as a matter of law but within their own terms of service. The D.M.C.A. is just one tool in the toolkit of managing rights, focused upon copyright law, but there are others.

    I’m sure people will keep ignoring this nuanced reality, though, to their detriment (because it’s much more fun to crow about fighting the powers that be)…

    • Well it would help if you were making a valid point.
      No-one is arguing your first point. In this case, those tools were misused (primarily through laziness/expediency) to cut off free speech. That’s not ‘fighting the power’. Its protecting unassailable rights. Seems fair to me.

      Its a total disaster for Rotolight. Their products were always a tad prosumer, and they were trying to become more professional. Well, they’ll need a killer new product to overcome this.

    • I do not say they should not have right to take action against a deliberately wrong bad review, in the right way. The argument has been on the validity of the tool they used, and wherever they should have used it instead of a more gentle and useful way. As for service providers, blanking out offending parts might bring it’s own legal issues (just remember, parts of a terms of use agreement might be “boiler plate clauses” with no current standing under law, and bluff, so can’t cover all things) but they could contact the video poster, to do so, or get permission for the service provider to do it,, while leaving the video up, or temporarily locking out as “Under Discussion”. If they all did these sorts of thingsthese ways iinstead, the legal situation in this sort of businesses could be improved ten times.

      As for the suggestion that trademarks etc could be used to take down reviews. I’m sure also, if people start blanking out all trademarks and names, including in audio, replacing them with terms like “Unnamed product, from unnamed company, that wishes their trademarks with held from this review because they don’t like it” with short versions all over the place over the blanked out bits, that companies would think a bit, after a while before trying this. I also think that reviewers who might want to unjustly damage a company will also think a bit before doing this to hide behind, after companies still take action on the correct grounds against deliberately wrong reviews.

  • Seriously? Never give business to a company that will stoop to this. Never never never.

    If they’re willing to lie and cheat to get good reviews, where else are they going to lie and cheat?

  • This is, after Litepanels, the next manufacturer of LED lights that I’d rather not buy from in the future.

    If they claim to be the first manufacturer to deliver true full-spectrum LED lights, they must be aware that a lot of people are going to test that claim very thoroughly.

  • Rotolight have announced a new Range of Rotolight ANOVA V2 LED EcoFlood’s. Recently tested out on a shoot by BBC Lighting Cameraman/DoP Mark Langton here’s the video shot with a Sony F5 Camera on a controlled set and used with mixed traditional tungsten bulbs.
    Den Lennie checked out the New ANOVA’s at IBc 2013 and said “New @Rotolight ANOVA V2 is V impressive. Great Colour output. Look forward to using it. G8 upgrade for existing V1 Owners too”

    Den Lennie and Hollywood DoP Rodney Charters will be testing them out shortly. Check out Rodney Charters interview discussing the recent publicity and the new ANOVA’s

    Find out more about the Rotolight ANOVA upgrade programme

  • Hello there! This post couldn’t be written much better!
    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this article to him.
    Fairly certain he’ll have a good read. Thanks for sharing!