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DMCA takedown issued over website that tracks origin of COVID-19 cases at Queen’s University

A first-year engineering student at Queen’s University has started a website that tracks the origin of covid-19 on campus. The student, who wishes to remain anonymous, launched the website after frustration that there was no clear dashboard showing the origin of the confirmed cases on campus.

“Rumours were rampant,”

Currently, Queen’s tracks the cases linked to the community on their website, but doesn’t state the origin of the case. The student says that this reporting measure has been problematic, as it’s caused students on campus to rely on word of mouth within their social circles, potentially exposing them to misinformation.

“Rumours were rampant as students on campus relied on word of mouth to spread the status on cases to friends and family,” the first-year engineering student said.

The goal of the project is to consolidate the information which has been sent to students in an accessible format. The website is laid out in a way that lists each residence with the number of cases that have been confirmed positive.

The student says that they are doing their best to maintain accuracy. “I certainly do my best to keep things accurate, the only thing I cannot account for is active students isolating,” they said.

The student relies on official Queen’s statements, internal residence notification and local news sources to track which residences are confirmed to be positive.  

While project began three days ago, the website has had a considerable amount of website traffic. Since starting the website three days ago, the website has seen over 3000 unique visitors.

While the student began the website as a side project, he feels that it has filled a need. “I was certainly surprised by the number as it started off as a passion project but has quickly filled a clear need in an easily accessible central location,” the student said.

Despite the students efforts, they were shaken by the university’s response to the initiative. On October 2nd, the student received a DMCA taken down notice against his website. Specifically, the letter targeted photos that are also used on the university’s residence which were used on the students website. The university’s logo was also used. “They constructed it as copyright usage of their logo and likeness but technically I’m covered under fair use,” the student said.

“Cloudflare received a DMCA copyright infringement complaint regarding qu-rona.xyz,” the letter said. “Please remove all photos and logos on the offending website immediately.”

Screenshot of the DMCA Takedown issued by the university

Under the Canadian Copyright Act, material may be used without permission from a copyright holder if certain conditions are met. This includes for “the purposes of research, private study, education, satire, parody, criticism, review or news reporting.” Additionally, it must fulfill certain criteria, established under the landmark Supreme Court of Canada case, CCH Canadian Ltd v Law Society of Upper Canada. The student didn’t specifically outline under which grounds he believes that the website was under fair use.

In response to the DMCA takedown notice, the student immediately removed the images. In the meantime, the student has replaced the photos with original photos.

According to the website, 2 cases originate from Victoria Hall, 2 from Gord-Brock, 1 from Leonard Hall, 1 from Jean Royce and 2 from Brant Hall. Through speaking to current residence staff and our independent research, YGK News has been able to verify the authenticity of most of these cases.

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