Rotolight Tries To Unring The Censorious Bell

Rotolight makes photography lighting systems; Den Lennie discusses and reviews them. Den Lennie posted a video review of a Rotolight product on Vimeo. Rotolight thought it was misleading and unfair. So Rotolight left comments explaining their point of view and posted a rebuttal on their website and publicized it through social media.

No, wait. That's the way a rational and honest company would handle it. No, Rotolight got the review taken down with a fraudulent DMCA copyright violation notice, as discussed here and here and here and here. Den Lennie got the takedown notice. When Lennie wrote about it, Rotolight showed up to, in effect, confess that it had made a bogus DMCA demand because it thought the review was unfair, and to assert a very stupid trademark argument:


The DMCA notice was utterly, preposterously bogus for many reasons others smarter than I have already pointed out. The DMCA doesn't even apply to trademarks (as opposed to copyright), and even if it did, a product review can name the product without violating its trademark.

Rotolight is now experiencing the Streisand Effect, and has posted a statement on its website. The statement is part apology, part justification, and part evasion. Rotolight complains that the review was inaccurate because it depicted a unit that had since been repaired to correct a problem. They apologize for a "breakdown in communication," offer to give Den Lennie's F-Stop Academy a very expensive free device, and make many of the right corporate-rehabilitation-tour noises.

But Rotolight's explanation for what happened falls far short. It claims:

In this specific case, the video was not removed for copyright infringement reasons as has been widely reported. Rotolight received external advice with respect to this particular video that it was potentially misleading and unrepresentative. This advice resulted in the only request the company has made to have a video removed from any video sharing website in the last 3 years.

This makes no sense. Is Rotolight saying that they didn't send a DMCA notice, and Vimeo is lying? If so, why don't they say so, and release what they actually sent? Otherwise, if it wasn't a copyright issue, why did Rotolight use the DMCA? If Rotolight had an objection to a review being "misleading and unrepresentative," why did they use a mechanism that required them to assert copyright infringement and affirm a statement that said "I swear, under penalty of perjury, that the information in the notification is accurate and that I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed"? You say that you got "external advice" that the video was misleading, but carefully avoid saying you got advice to use the DMCA as a mechanism to attack it — did you or didn't you? If so, who gave you that idiotic advice? Oh — and if this was about an inaccurate review, why did Rotolight leave a comment on Den Lennie's post making a fatuous trademark argument?

Rotolight pleads with its detractors to think of its employees, saying that a bad review can hurt:

It is important to understand the damage that can be caused not just to our business, but to its hard working employees and their families, and also to the numerous other SME’s in our UK supply chain, whom we make a conscious effort to source components from in order to support our local business community, which is why we felt we needed to act.

Here's the thing, Rotolight. With all respect to Den Lennie, one review he posts on Vimeo is going to have a minor impact on your sales, particularly if you use your speech to rebut and correct it. By acting like a dishonest censorious douche, you have done greater harm to your reputation by — conservatively — three to four orders of magnitude. If your hard working employees and their families are angry, tell them to look to the Rotolight executives who made this decision and ask them: what the hell were you thinking? Why did you trash our company's reputation?

Edited to add: Commenter "guess who" provides evidence evidence casting substantial doubt on any assertion that Rotolight was ignorant of DMCA requirements.

Edited again to add: Vimeo has put the video back up. Want an idea of how awful Rotolight's judgment was? A source informs me that, prior to the takedown, the video had only 150 hits since March. This blog post alone — to say nothing of Techdirt, BoingBoing, or the others — has had 1500 so far today. That doesn't count people reading it on their feed. And it doesn't take into account the impact on Rotolight's Google results.

Third edit: I'm now allowed to mention that when I heard about this I offered Den Lennie to try to find pro bono counsel in case he needed it. Looks like he won't — Rotolight is in full retreat — but I want to thank Jason Sweet and Dan Booth of Booth Sweet LLP for stepping up and backing Den. Your rights depend on lawyers like that willing to step into the breach.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. Anonymous Coward says

    I need a lawyer to explain like I'm five. Why have none of these bogus DMCA authors ever been prosecuted for perjury? Why??

  2. jb says


    I forget where I read about this, or I would provide a link, but somewhere there is a fantastic article on "Honor cultures" vs "Virtue cultures." In the latter, what's important is being good; in the former, what's important is people perceiving you as good. In the latter, if you do something bad and it comes to light, you are to blame for doing the bad thing; in the former, the person who brought it to light is to blame for besmirching your reputation.

    This is a useful lens for looking at certain Middle Eastern/South Asian tribal societies and their "honor killings," as well as certain politicians and celebrities from the American South and their reactions to scandals. In both cases, there's an attitude of "kill the messenger" because the problem is seen as the reputational damage, not the underlying bad deed.

    That's also what goes on in bad-review-trashing cases like this. The company lashes out at the reviewer for injuring its honor, and has no concern for the injury it did to its virtue by releasing a bad product.

  3. Robin Morris says

    > I need a lawyer to explain like I'm five.
    > Why have none of these bogus
    >DMCA authors ever been prosecuted for perjury? Why??

    IANAL, but my understanding is that it's because of the way it's worded. The take-down notice basically says

    1. I own the copyright on X
    2. I believe that Y infringes this copyright

    Only statement 1 is made under penalty of perjury.

    And yes, this is a loophole that people can, and do, drive a truck through.

  4. Chris says

    > 1. I own the copyright on X
    > Only statement 1 is made under penalty of perjury.

    And statement 1 would presumably be false, since they don't actually own the copyright on the review (the reviewer does).

  5. Robin Morris says

    > And statement 1 would presumably be false,
    > since they don't actually own the copyright on the review
    > (the reviewer does).

    You're not thinking deviously enough:

    1. I own the copyright on my marketing materials
    2. The review infringes on the copyright on my marketing materials.

    Whether the review does or doesn't infringe makes no difference to this being a valid DMCA take-down notice, with statement 1 being absolutely true. (And if it's not valid, the onus is now on whoever wrote the review to challenge it.)

  6. Elliot says

    Nobody gets prosecuted for perjury for DMCA takedown notices because federal prosecutors are overworked and have more serious crimes to worry about.

  7. jackn says

    Rotolight claims "It is important to understand the damage that can be caused not just to our business, but to its hard working employees and their families, and also to the numerous other SME’s in our UK supply chain, whom we make a conscious effort to source components from in order to support our local business community, which is why we felt we needed to act."

    but Rotolight don't understand that if Rotolight is producing substandard merchandise or they are better values with other companies, it is very important that we get the word out. If people loose their job, that is good because those employees can move to more productive companies that add more value to the consumers.

  8. jackn says

    I just checked these out. They are LED, so I can imagine what the reviews were about.

    The obvious fact the LEDs don't produce a wide enough spectrum of light is usually the complaint. And, IMO, its true. Rotolight seem to blend two LEDS for two waveslentghs, but IMO, that still leaves alot of holes in the spectrum.

  9. "Rotolight" sounds like a garden tool says

    Dear Rotolight,

    If your product is so shabby that you have to use a fraudulent DMCA notice to censor criticism, then perhaps all those workers you're hand-wringing about deserve to be unemployed.

  10. SassQueen says

    In this specific case, the video was not removed for copyright infringement reasons as has been widely reported.

    I took this to mean they didn't like the video, and so someone "advised" them to use DMCA as the method of getting it removed.

    PS, hopefully my blockquoting worked…

  11. EH says

    You know what's also bad for employees? Directing them to make products that get bad reviews.

  12. Guess Who says

    The Rotolight False DMCA was not innocent or stupid at all. His Wife also wrote a Book on Entertainment Copyright LAW! ( Link Below!)

    The Founder/Owner of Rotolight is one of the largest Music Publisher/Producers in the UK

    Singer/Songwriter/ Producer
    Rod Aaron Gammons
    January 2002 – Present (11 years 8 months)
    I've toured to over 20,000 people, twice, for Rimmel London, the world’s largest make-up manufacturer, and Sugar Magazine, the UK’s biggest selling Teen Magazine, i also headlined the Mp3 Music Awards at the Clapham Grand in London to over 2000 people. I've also performed twice to over around a thousand people and 'MTV' in London at a very exclusive event “Capital VIP”, an event previously performed by the likes of Liberty X, So Solid Crew and Britney Spears, and i performed alongside three Top 40 selling artists – including the lead singer from the famous girl group 'The 411'(Sony).

    I've had two singles out with Universal(Digital), and was honoured to have two songs make it through to the Semi Final of the UK Songwriting Competition, up against 6,500 other songs.

    Reviews : ..“ The Hairs on the back of my neck are standing up after listening to that…a very warm, calming sound”….'BBC Radio Breakfast Show"

    ."…a potential new David Gray"….'The Promoter', Channel 4 Popworld Promotes..(

    I've got a large catalogue of original recorded songs which i own the master rights to (fully cleared) and am looking for TV/Film Sync opportunities, aswell as Artist covers.

    Rod Gammons Wife wrote a book on Entertainment Industry Copyright Law

  13. barry says

    Rotolight received external advice …

    If it was some drunk in the park, fine. But its not going to end well if they're trying to blame their lawyer.

  14. barry says

    To clarify: I'm not suggesting that there were any lawyers drunk in any park contributing to this business decision.

  15. En Passant says

    Elliot wrote Aug 1, 2013 @10:56 am:

    Nobody gets prosecuted for perjury for DMCA takedown notices because federal prosecutors are overworked and have more serious crimes to worry about.

    Is that because perjury isn't a serious crime? Or are those poor overworked federal prosecutors held in chattel slavery and not free to seek employment elsewhere?

  16. "Rotolight" sounds like a garden tool says


    Well, isn't THAT interesting.

    At this point I find it very hard to believe the DMCA take-down notice was anything other than intentional.

    Unless of course the wife is an incompetent lawyer who can't litigate her way out of a paper bag, or the husband never asked her opinion.

  17. Zack says

    @Elliot: Perjury, in any form, in any venue, is a serious crime. It is arguably more serious than murder- murder merely kills a man, while perjury has been responsible for dozens or hundreds of deaths at the time (see: the Salem witch trials, all the other American, European, African, and Asian witch trials, most black men convicted of murder between 1890 and 1980, etc.)

    It has brought down- or nearly brought down- leaders of great prestige and power and their assistants (Bill Clinton was impeached for perjury, Nixon's larger wrongdoing was only uncovered because he lied about Watergate, Scooter Libby was convicted of perjury, not of anything else he was accused of, etc.)

    Courts and the floors of Congress are SUPPOSED to be sacrosanct in democracies and republics- they are supposed to be places of truth. In the former case, truth to determine the necessity of sanctioning an individual's conduct- in the latter case, truth to determine the necessity of legislative action which will affect the whole nation.

    Every single case of perjury undermines the system as a whole, whereas the murder rate could triple and- although the loss of life would be horrible- the system itself would survive. There are few greater crimes than perjury.

  18. Jack says

    @jackn – LED technology has come very, very far and even though they only emit a few small spectrums – they mix these spectrums very well to produce an exact color temperature. Your eyes (and camera) can't distinguish between LEDs and any other type of lighting as long as long as the color temperature and source type (point, diffuse, etc.) is the same.

    The problem used to be that they couldn't create diodes that could consistently put out the correct wavelength to exactly recreate the color temperature they were shooting for. So, you would get ugly rendering and a color temperature significantly higher (bluer) than you wanted and corrected for so everything looks green and weird. The new Cree and Bridgelux LEDs (among others) are awesome and have great color rendering. They are capable enough for me to grow stony corals under and more than capable enough to act as modelling lights for my photography. Unlike standard bulb modelling lights, the color temperature doesn't shift as the diode wears out like happens to all other bulbs.

  19. jackn says


    I am trying to understand how the spectrum would be filled. Is it that the two wavelengths would 'interfer' with each other filling out the spectrum? I could possibly go for that explanation.

    I can see how they would be nice as modeling lamps, esp. on hot days

  20. eigenperson says


    Many white LEDs these days use phosphors that emit a continuous spectrum.

  21. DonaldB says

    Diving into the technology for a minute:

    "White" LEDs are essentially the same as fluorescent tubes, using an LED instead of a gas discharge to generate the UV light and various phosphorescent compound to convert this to a range of emitted colors.

    Because they don't emit a smooth spectrum of light, they are characterized by an effective color temperature (the same as an incandescent lamp) plus their Color Rendition Index / CRI which describes how smoothly they emit different colors.

    The first challenge is that white LEDs use a blue to near UV LED as the initial light source. This puts a strong blue line in the output spectrum. Next, source light color can vary with current and temperature. Efficient phosphors are only available in certain colors and their efficiency changes with the source light spectrum. Finally, the output can vary with source light intensity, thus changing the light from green to pink as brightness increases.

    Now cross all of this with the sensitivity profile of film or image sensors, and there is more than a bit of art to the selection process.

    But back to the primary issue: has the DCMA become the 'resisting arrest' or 'loitering' charge of the online world?

  22. perlhaqr says

    So, I thought even the very best LED bulbs were still only hitting a CRI of 92 or so.

    And the fact that they're like fluorescent bulbs is why my wife doesn't like them, I think, they remind her of being at work (at the hospital).

  23. says

    The DMCA has provisions for hitting back at fraudulent takedowns. But we all know they're toothless and completely ignored in the real world.

    In the real world, the DMCA is brutal, brutal club for folks who want to forcefully control others' speech.

    Adding Rotolight to the shit list. Gonna need some more disk space soon, I reckon.

  24. Trent says

    The thing with the CREE systems is that they don't just use white LED's, they blend several LEDs of varying colors (typically white, blue red and Green) together and can faithfully reproduce almost any color temperature. Many in fact include the circuitry to change the color temp on the fly and can go all the way from 2200K to 6700K and even others can turn off individual LEDs and produce almost any color in about 65K colors.

    The CREE systems are impressive, people focus on the ultra brite LEDS but they aren't even the biggest seller these color change systems are neat.

  25. grouch says

    Nice of Rotolight to illuminate the Streisand Effect so well. Is censorious thuggery a popular form of PR now?

  26. chux0r says

    FYI – the rotolight website seems to be having some issues at the moment. Complains it can't establish a database connection. They just don't make databases like they used to.

  27. That Anonymous Coward says

    DMCA is broken.

    If you don't jump high enough or fast enough, they take you to court and waste your time and money.

    If they make a claim that turns out to be false, it is perfectly fine. The reason is it perfectly fine is they only need to pass the bar of "I believe" this is infringing. So the courts are left with having to know what was in someones mind, before they could proceed.

    Things might get better, but I lost track of the Dr vs the thin skinned MidWife case where a court could make decisions changing how things work.

  28. corocoro says

    > I need a lawyer to explain like I'm five. Why have none of these bogus DMCA authors ever been prosecuted for perjury? Why??

    Most (incorrect or not) takedowns are sent by entertainment companies using automated programs (bots). Knowing that the software in use often sends incorrect notices is apparently not enough to violate the good-faith clause in the DMCA takedown, though. I'm not sure if this has ever been tested in court, though.

    Anyway, there's actually been fairly few (reported) cases of targeted DMCA abuse – the most notorious being here:
    The only other cases I can think of are this one and the one about KTVU trying to hide their snafu with some pilots' names – very few indeed.

    P.s.: TechDirt is very critical about the DMCA, seeing it as a tool for censorship and stiffling innovation. Whether or not you agree with that stance, it's something to keep in your mind when reading the linked article.

  29. Elliot says

    @En Passant: federal prosecutors are not indentured servants, but when they quit their job they lose the ability to prosecute perjury cases.

    @Zack: I agree that perjury is always a serious crime, but federal prosecutors apparently believe that it is less serious than terrorism, drug trafficking and major financial fraud, which is what most federal prosecutors spend most of their time on. When they do prosecute perjury, it is typically perjury committed in a courtroom, not on a DMCA takedown notice.

  30. Zack says

    @Elliot: They're free to believe as they wish to, but I would disagree with them on that point; more damage can be done by one lie in a courtroom than by the destruction of any one building in the U.S., any one ton of heroin or cocaine, or any one billion dollars of fraud prosecuted.

  31. J says

    I'm sorry, but… OK, I'm not sorry. Not at all.

    I just can't escape the irony of complaining about somebody using carefully worded statements to be misleading, when the very same article has an addendum that includes "A source informs me".

    "A source informs me" is roughly as authoritative as "has been alleged" or "widely suspected of", and every bit as dishonest and misleading.

    Yes, Rotolight are shitbags and DMCA-abuse won't get fixed until DMCA itself is massively overhauled. But that's not an excuse to drop the "A source informs me" tripe.

  32. barry says

    Crimes shouldn't be judged by their worst possible consequence. If that were the case, the Seinfeld crime of 'Criminal Indifference' would possibly be the worst of them all.

    Even the ten commandments puts murder ahead of bearing false witness, and "thou shalt not vex a stranger" (Exodus 22:21) didn't make the cut at all.

  33. corocoro says

    @J: Vimeo provides stats for the video. Anyone with a calculator could/can be the/a source.

  34. Guess Who Again! LOL says

    Rotolight Owner gives Lectures and Seminars DISCUSSING IP Enforcement! Was a SOPA and PIPA Supporter.
    Claims Copyright Laws NOT TO SILENCE Bloggers LAST YEAR!
    All Proof Here! I have Tons More Now! Most here from Owner's Personal Twitter.

    The "Claimed" owner of Rotolight is actually "Helen Gammons" on her linked In. ( Details at Botton"

    Her Twitter is all about Rotolight, lobbying for tougher IP Laws AND Her music Seminars

    • She Claims Stronger Copyight Laws are NOT about Silencing Speech LAST YEAR on Twitter
    "Scare mongering by social media sites is wrong, the bills are not to restrict anyones voice, just to stop digital theft. Issues can be resolved."
    "Why is theft in the digital domain different to stealing from a record shop?"
    "Re: SOPA & PIPA digital piracy is not an acceptable social habit its theft. It stops working composers,producers & artists earning a living.

    • She Launched and Runs a Music Distribution Rights Company, Her Tweet
    "Did I mention I'm launching "sync in the city" a music placement company for film and tv. Should be 'live' in a few weeks."

    • The Music Publishers Will Gain Control, Her Tweet
    "Music Publishers have the upper hand if they control both the music and the master and it will bring great success (BMG Rights Management)."

    • A Tweet about her "Music Copyright Seminar"

    • Anti Music Piracy Tweet

    • HUNDREDS of Rotolight Tweets Here's a Few to prove correct Account

    • One of her "Music Seminars"

    Helen Gammons actually LECTURES on IP Enforcement Learned from years as a Music Industry Leader and Co-owner in Several Music Publishing houses!

    Tuesday 14 May 2013, 10:21 | By CMU @ TGE
    Artist brands and the challenges of communicating copyright tackled at Great Escape IP-themed sessions

    CMU Business Editor Chris Cooke will lead a debate on the challenges of ‘communicating copyright’, with Sentric Music’s Chris Meehan, Henley Business School’s Helen Gammons, First Column Management’s Phil Nelson and the Music Managers’ Forum’s John Webster.

    • A Technorati Article on her Music Lectures

    Helen Gammons Linked In
    Helen Gammons's Overview

    Programme Director at Henley Business School
    CEO at Sync In The City
    Owner / Director at
    Owner at Planet Video Systems Ltd
    see less
    Creative Director. at Avex Inc

  35. Nicolas Martin says

    I've never seen it reported, but Amazon removes reviews at the behest of complaining sellers and customers, possibly often. I wrote a lengthy and serious review about the shortcomings of defibrillators, and either Philips or some other complainer had it removed twice and for all. I poked fun at a slim iPod how-to book authored by a tech magazine editor, and he blew a fuse and had it removed. (He gave himself a 5-star review.) I complained that Ry Cooder has sacrificed music for politics on his then-new CD, and, poof, that review was quickly removed. There have been a couple of others. I try to write lively but civil reviews that are never vulgar. If Amazon has removed 5 or 6 of my reviews, how often does it happen overall? (I'm altogether in favor of the removal of uncivil, libelous, or vulgar reviews.)

  36. andrews says

    Why have none of these bogus DMCA authors ever been prosecuted for perjury

    One nice thing about being in the land of the lime-eaters is that you need not fear prosecution for DMCA perjury because the penalty does not reach you.

    They also have some attractive libel laws so that people there can sue for hurt feeling and shift the burden to the defendant to (a) swim across the pond (b) prove the truth of their opinions. This may have be related to the near revulsion with which English law on the subject is considered.

  37. Grifter says

    Post's a bit old at this point, but it occurred to me that it would be nice if you had a Wall-O-Popehat "Signal Stepper-Uppers", maybe on the left bar.

    I mean, I don't need a lawyer much, but if I did, I'd tend towards one who had stepped up to the plate on principles (and that goes for other support-the-signal folks who have other business like IT or whatnot, too).