Illma Gore, the artist behind a popular image of a nude Donald Trump with small genitalia has been facing a bizarre and confusing battle with Facebook over the status of her account and a copyright claim.
In the past few weeks she has been blocked; unblocked, then blocked again by Facebook and asked to provide government ID to verify her identity; and had her access partially restored but without the ability to post images. The artist says she's also now worried about being sued over the image.
Facebook notified Gore that a third party filed a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) infringement notice against her. She was then asked to upload an official government-issued ID to verify her account. Facebook also offered an opportunity to fill out a counter-notification denying the copyright infringement.
"The account was disabled in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate."
The notice sent by Facebook doesn't disclose the identity of the third party filing the DMCA violation or identify which specific image violates the law, so Gore has had difficulty responding.
The only hint as to who filed the claim came from a threatening phone call. Gore says someone who identified himself as a member of the Trump organization called and advised her to stop posting the nude image of Donald Trump or "face legal action."
It's unclear what copyright claim Trump or anyone else would have over the image Gore created.
"Service providers tend to approach these notices in a rather risk-averse fashion," said Jonathan Tobin, a founding partner at Counsel for Creators LLP, a Los Angeles-based law firm serving clients in arts, media and technology. In other words, Facebook might send a notice like Gore received on a "just in case" basis.
"If one is actually filing a suit for copyright infringement, the plaintiff will need to specifically identify the allegedly infringed and infringing images," Tobin said. "A copyright suit can only succeed if the two images can be compared." Gore says the art is original and not a copy of any existing copyrighted images of Donald Trump, nude or otherwise, so it seems Trump would have difficulty pursuing legal action in this situation.
However, after being contacted by Motherboard, Facebook said it was all a mixup.
In a statement issued to Motherboard a Facebook spokesperson says "The account was disabled in error and restored as soon as we were able to investigate. Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We're very sorry about this mistake."
As of Monday afternoon, Gore was able to access her Facebook account but could not post images.
The statement doesn't explain the DMCA notice, but it does give insight as to why they might have sent the warning: Just in case.
Here is a timeline of Illana Gore's struggle with the rendering of Donald Trump, Facebook and legal notifications:
January 6: Gore posts a video of her drawing on Instagram with the caption, "working on something small but huge."
February 9: Gore unveils image of a nude Donald Trump on Facebook and Instagram. It's flagged on Facebook but not on Facebook-owned Instagram.
February 10: Gore replaces the graphic image with a censored version, which is subsequently also flagged, and receives the first account suspension notification from Facebook. In response, she makes the uncensored image available for public download on her website.
March 7: A person who identifies himself as a member of Trump's legal team calls Gore and advises her to remove the imagery of Trump or face legal action. Facebook notifies Gore of a new 13 hour ban, after she's already been blocked for two days. March 11: Facebook sends Gore a notice saying she used Facebook as a platform to promote an image that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
March 11: EBay also removes the image from their site citing it as "nude art." The image was listed for sale in a charity auction posted by Gore. March 14: Facebook institutes a new seven day ban on Gore. In a separate notice Facebook asks her to provide a government ID to verify her identity and the account.
March 18: Gore is notified that she's banned for an extended 24 hours.
Gore is currently in London planning her next steps, and a possible show involving the image. In January the UK Parliament debated banning Donald Trump for hate speech. Gore doesn't want to reveal any specific plans yet but says she has more of an opportunity to be heard there.