Key Techdirt SOPA/PIPA Post Censored By Bogus DMCA Takedown Notice

from the dmca-abuse dept

We’ve talked a lot about how copyright law and the DMCA can be abused to take down legitimate, non-infringing content, interfering with one’s free speech rights. And we’re always brushed off by copyright maximalists, who insist that any complaints about taking down legitimate speech are overblown.

So isn’t it interesting that we’ve just discovered that our own key anti-SOPA blog post and discussion… have been blocked thanks to a bogus DMCA takedown?

Last November, in the heat of the SOPA fight, I wrote a blog post, where I tried to pull together a bunch of the different reasons why SOPA and PIPA were really bad ideas. It was a very popular post for us, and I heard directly from many people that it was quite helpful in getting them to understand the real problems of these two bills.

Well, as I just discovered, that post cannot be found directly via Google any more.

I actually discovered this entirely by accident. I was looking for a totally different old Techdirt post, and was scrolling through Google results, when I saw a note at the bottom of the Google page saying that results had been removed due to a DMCA takedown:

You see that warning every so often, and I have to admit that I came really close to just ignoring it. But then I remembered that the search I was doing was using the site:techdirt.com parameter, so any such notice must mean that a Techdirt page had been blocked by a DMCA takedown. That seemed surprising. So I clicked through and found this DMCA takedown notice — and there at entry 253 is the URL for our post. The takedown comes from a company named Armovore, who apparently is one of those “anti-piracy” firms that sends DMCA notices out on behalf of others. In this case, it sent out the DMCA notice on behalf of Paper Street Cash — which is a porn company I’ve never heard of prior to this. They’re claiming that the takedown is about content from a site called TeamSkeet.

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not the only one. There’s clearly nothing infringing in our post. I just wasted too much time going through all 300+ comments on that post and I don’t see anything that includes any porn or even links to any porn as far as I can tell. Instead, it seems that Armovore and Paper Street Cash sent a clearly bogus DMCA takedown notice, which served the purpose of censoring our key blog post in the SOPA fight. And they did it on January 20th… the day that SOPA was officially shelved.

There are some other oddities in that list as well, including TorrentFreak’s article about how ICE took down 84,000 websites illegally by seizing the mooo.com domain and saying that all 84,000 of those sites were involved in child porn.

In other words, two separate articles that have been key to the discussion concerning abuses of copyright law… both taken out of Google’s index due to a bogus DMCA takedown. Hmm….

While many of the other links do appear to go to sites that may offer up infringing content, just looking at the URLs alone make you wonder what most of them have to do with Paper Street Cash or TeamSkeet. Some of the links talk about top Christian albums. One is to some Dave Matthews songs. Another is to Wiz Khalifa music. There’s another one that appears to be a link to downloads of the TV show Prison Break. Obviously those things may be infringing, but the notice itself only talks about TeamSkeet, and if Armovore doesn’t represent those other artists, it may have broken the law in pretending to.

Then there’s a really bizarre one. Entry 533 on the list is… TeamSkeet’s own website. I don’t know how much Armovore charges Paper Street Cash, but they deserve a refund.

Most importantly, though, our page clearly is not infringing. This is a 100% bogus DMCA takedown — something we only discovered by complete accident over a month later — hiding one of our key articles in an important fight about abusing copyright law to take down free speech. Seems like a perfect example of how copyright can be — and is — abused to suppress free speech.

In the meantime, we’ll be exploring our options for responding to this obviously bogus takedown from both Armovore and Paper Street Cash.

Update: After “further review,” Google has reinstated our story to its index….

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Companies: armovore, paper street cash, techdirt

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Comments on “Key Techdirt SOPA/PIPA Post Censored By Bogus DMCA Takedown Notice”

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172 Comments
Duke (profile) says:

Other interesting hits...

There seem to be a few other odd entries in that list, such as this article from the Independent (one of the UK’s major newspapers) – I wonder if they’ve simply done a search (presumably on Google) for certain terms (possibly including “torrent” and “innocent”, both of which appear in the Independent article) and submitted that list to Google.

Anonymous Coward says:

How to see Google's DMCA notices for your site

I actually discovered this entirely by accident.

Add your site to Google Webmaster Tools and go to “All Messages” on the left and you can see Google’s DMCA notices as they come in (not sure about the historical ones). You should also go to “Preferences” and have them forward notices to an email account so you don’t have to log into Webmaster Tools all the time to see them. IIRC they added this ability last year but not too many people know about it.

GMacGuffin says:

A Most Awesome Case Study...

This would be a great case study; see how the DMCA provisions for wrongful takedowns play out. Couldn’t be better subject matter. (Damages may be problematic; but getting returned to the search index does require time and effort, and even attorney fees for donated lawyer time might be recovered – reasonable value.)

Too bad one of the *AAs didn’t yank it … what a watershed that would be.

17 USC ?512(f)

(f) Misrepresentations.? Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section?

(1) that material or activity is infringing, or

(2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,

shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys? fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner?s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

But there is a penalty. Or at least there’s supposed to be.
http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512
section f

quote:
(f) Misrepresentations.? Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents under this section?
(1) that material or activity is infringing, or
(2) that material or activity was removed or disabled by mistake or misidentification,
shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys? fees, incurred by the alleged infringer, by any copyright owner or copyright owner?s authorized licensee, or by a service provider, who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing, or in replacing the removed material or ceasing to disable access to it.
/quote

If people would actually start suing these jerks then the number of false take-downs would probably drop substantially. I know it’s intensely time consuming and expensive to do this but someone has got to start doing so or they (the great nebulous ‘they’), are just going to keep filing those false take-downs.

Designerfx (profile) says:

Re:

how about teaching them about the basics of security?

google for armovore shows the second result linking directly to their “DMCA login” page. Clearly a genius company.

MEC DMCA System – – Login
gcc.armovore.com

all it would take is a simple submittal to anonymous and I’m pretty sure this would escalate. How do people manage to be this stupid in the first place?

also, wow! they requested takedown for 500 links!

http://www.chillingeffects.org/notice.cgi?sID=189468

Zangetsu (profile) says:

Article fodder

Please keep us up to date on what happens. Like one of your other posts mentions, I am grabbing a bucket of popcorn and watching what happens. What I think would be particularly interesting to know is how long it takes to get the page back into circulation. What impact does it have if people can get pages down faster than they can be restored? What happens if I type in “TeamSkeet porn torrent download”? Is this page now going to be the subject of a DMCA takedown notice? If it is then we’ve now discovered a way to take down any page on any site that allows comments. Denial of service via DMCA attack (DoS via DMCA (TM) )

saulgoode (profile) says:

If you’re scratching your head, you’re not the only one. There’s clearly nothing infringing in our post. I just wasted too much time going through all 300+ comments on that post and I don’t see anything …

While Techdirt may be responsible for the content of its articles, the comment section should definitely be covered by DMCA “safe harbor” provisions and any takedown notice should’ve been sent to Techdirt, not Google.

Furthermore, the have only been a couple of cases where linking to infringing has been found to be illegal (by way of contributory infringement) and both of these involved there having been an actual judgment — not merely an accusation — that had found the material being linked to infringing.

The fact that Google was notified, while Techdirt was not is extremely dubious in itself.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I wonder, do any politicians use the internet to raise donations?

If so, i can think of a few certain politicians that “anonymous” could take a look at!
If politicians want to destroy then mould the internet, then i say “anonymous” should kick them off the net(if they can), see how they like it, fucking plonkers, its not enough that you have what you have, now you gotta break something that aint broke, because you see a new avenenue to rip us off……….PLONKERS

Chris-Mouse (profile) says:

Re:

Section 512(c)(3)(A)(vi) also requires that the complaint must include:

A statement that the information in the
notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury,
that the complaining party is authorized to act on
behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly
infringed.

Failing to check before complaining might get a handslap from a judge. Being called on it, and still claiming copyright in the work cannot be anything other than willful action, and that would leave the complainant open to a perjury charge.
Of course, the big question is, as always, “is nailing this company worth the expense of going to court?” Unless you’re willing to put a lot of money on the line in an attempt to set a precedent, the answer is probably “no”

Rob8urcakes (user link) says:

@ Mike Masnick & Team

Go get ’em Mike.

This is EXACTLY the type of crap we’re fighting against to keep the internet free from these CopyWrong Trolls and anti-freedom of speech fascists.

This shit is why censorship laws such as the existing DMCA, plus the proposed SOPA, OPEN, ACTA, TPP etc. are all worthy of being resisted and binned.

So sue their sorry asses.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

the problem is that the penalty structure is entirely one sided. The standard to prove a bogus takedown request and get compensated is higher, one would practically have to prove intent, and the compensation is much lower than what one can get for infringement.

Not to mention that IP extremists generally get the high court treatment.

That needs to change. Those who make bogus takedown requests should be penalized much more severely than those who infringe and the government should not go after those who infringe, it should go after those who make bogus takedown requests. But, like usual, IP extremists get the high court treatment.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

Re:

Well it would be a bit difficult to associate the cost for the maximum joke offer.

The real offer of spend a day with tech dirt staff offer could be real economic loss.

As long as they assign one of those 4 people to the task of reversing the bogus take down.

add the cost of buying the traffic that was lost because the article was not find able during the key period when it was relevant. The long term link juice from all the blogs that would have found it and linked to it.

And the loss of authority status due to that lost link juice.
And you could get a “real” value of damages.

Stephan Kinsella (profile) says:

But it's not "abuse"

Great post, and only one quibble: you say that this is an example of how copyright is abused. But it’s not abuse. This is a natural result of having state grants of monopoly privilege over ideas, and administered by various bureaucratic state agencies/procedures. It’s not abuse at all. This is like SOPA: the problem is that that it goes “too far” in protecting copyright. The problem is copyright itself. SOPA, and DMCA takedowns, are just a symptom. Copyright is the disease.

Jeff from Armovore says:

Apology

Hello Mr. Masnick,

On behalf of Armovore, I would like to sincerely apologize for the error. It was not our intention to remove your url in addition to other false positives in the notice dated Jan 20, 2012. (Most if not all should be readded in Google’s index as of now)

Simply put, we made a mistake which was corrected when it came to our attention during an audit this weekend. In reality we are all human, and humans make mistakes. In fact circumstances such as this help us learn from our mistakes. For instance, http://torrentfreak.com/google-removes-pirate-bay-frontpage-from-search-results-091002/ is another example of such error.

We have no intention of censoring Free Speech actually, we are all for it. We’ve donated Tor Exit Nodes to the Tor Project in addition to other items such as SSL’s to other similar organizations who wish to protect just that.

Once again I apologize for the error, rather than a lengthy explanation I stick to my own principles of “NO BS”.

Thank you

CodenameV (profile) says:

IP is a joke

Movie theaters create their own ticket booths to exclude non-payers so they can have value in their product. Why should the Government build ticket booths for industries that utilize the internet? If the free market can’t provide adequate fences/ticket booths to exclude non-payers we SHOULD NOT ask the Government to do it- they always screw everything up. Senator Hatch says the Government should DESTROY computers without due process. http://www.dethronehatch.com/orrin-hatch-is-no-friend-of-the-internet/

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Interesting, but not complete

But don’t you know that Google is the big bad guy of the internet who has caused all these serious losses for the RIAA and MPAA ever since the Internet was invented and even before Google existed?

It’s hard enough to sell shiny plastic disks these days as it is so why do they need BOTH Google and Techdirt around? ๐Ÿ˜‰

Loki says:

Re:

Why would it be difficult?

Hell by applying RIAA/MPAA mathematics, you even get to apply a multiplier effect to the basic “unit cost”.

Hell, by their own warped arguments, this could be a clear case of “reverse piracy”. Every lost eyeball while the post was blocked, was clearly a lost advertising sale. If we take the average number of article views per days, multiple them by the number of days the article was blocked, and multiplying that by $150,000 per views we could be talking tens of millions of dollars here.

(Yes, it’s a completely stupid argument, but if that’s the kind of rules the content industry wants, then I am not the least bit shy about using their own methods right back at them).

Jeff @armovore says:

Other interesting hits...

Hi Duke:

In regards to your statement, Google never disabled the URL you specified above.

Our intention is not to “BS” or deny any facts. The initial tool was keyword based. However, we’ve made substantial improvements to only do site: in addition to numerous automated/humans checks to remove only torrent links with actual infringing content rather than a mention of a result to xyz content.

Once again we apologize

Mike (profile) says:

Apology

Jeff,

While this apology is wonderful, I would hope that Armovore is taking steps to prevent this happening EVER AGAIN.

We don’t want to hear excuses about “the tech not being accurate enough” to be 100% accurate. We want to hear that this practice will STOP until the tech IS 100% accurate.

Anything else is false accusation and should not be part of modern society, online or offline.

Regards,

Mike.

John @armovore says:

Apology

Hi,

Thanks for the kind comments. To address a point made in the article, we have never charged anyone for our service since its inception in November.

Personally, I don’t feel the need to charge anyone for an unfinished service that is constantly being improved and tweaked every few days. Obviously we had a big bug in our system that we somehow missed during clean ups. We’ve had Google reinstate numerous URLs in the past due to similar circumstances, I’m quite ashamed I’ve never heard of TechDirt before today. We started auditing all DMCAs to Google as of today and hope to correct any other errors we’ve made.

In conclusion, our intention was not to restrict free speech. Personally, I am an avid defender of free speech having donated tor exit nodes and ssl certificates to organizations that defend just that.

John @armovore says:

Apology

Michael,

Understandable. We are actually auditing all of our previous DMCA’s to Google today to ensure no one else is being DMCAed by mistake. This was never our intention.

As far as your question, we are taking steps to prevent such event from occurring again by incorporating steps we take in traditional takedowns (cyberlockers / site DMCA’s) which is to manually anything that circumvents from our system. Beside this fact, we are only targeting known pirating locations rather than doing a SEO based search term.. Meaning anything from this point forward cannot be blamed on bad tech.

If anyone has any other questions I am more than happy to address them.

hemo_jr (profile) says:

Sue Armovore & Paper Street Cash

And use the logic of the RIAA in doing so. For the time that your post was affected by the take down, assume that Google would have sent a user to your page if any word or words on the page was a match for any Google query (Bing too, if that was also affected).

Then assume that any visitor to your page would have clicked on every ad and would be following you on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also assume the good will of every visitor.

Then sue for loss of revenue, growth and good will.

John @armovore says:

New Points

@Simple Mind – That its self is a false accusation. Our intention is not to falsely DMCA anyone. If it was our intention, why would we ask Google to reinstate TorrentFreak and numerous other links on Sunday well before this article was published? We are all human and make mistakes.

@Pseudonym – We are more than happy to answer any questions. As we mentioned before, it was due to a keyword match with the query “teamskeet torrent”. As an avid supporter of Tor, the EFF, and numerous other projects that project Free Speech that would be against our principles to DMCA a news article that is relevant to the issue its self.

@Anonymous Coward – If our goal was to censor sites who have the right to Free Speech why are there only 2 false positives considering the rest are torrents. Clearly a mistake.

Once again, we apologize.

Karl (profile) says:

New Points

If our goal was to censor sites who have the right to Free Speech why are there only 2 false positives considering the rest are torrents.

I’d like to interject here for a moment to point something out.

It doesn’t matter if “the rest are torrents.” They absolutely must be torrents of material over which you hold the copyright. If you are sending takedown notices over torrent files (even infringing ones) and you do not hold the copyright to those files, then you are breaking the law.

For example: if one of those searches resulted in a link to “Innocent High,” the song by Blood On The Dance Floor, and you issue a takedown notice on that search, then you are breaking the law.

Keeping this in mind, there are far, far more than just two false positives on there.

Personally, I do appreciate your coming on here and explaining the situation. That is good of you to do. I sincerely hope that your new system will handle things better.

tpp says:

The competency of a DMCA bot maker

I could make a fortune making software for “anti-piracy” companies like you. The standard of quality is so damn low, that any semi-competent software engineer could improve on your process without even trying too hard.

Where do I sign up?

It is convenient, isn’t it, to blame your software for your failings. I blame you, though. You have no business running your crap on the Internet when it can’t do the one thing it’s supposed to do properly.

F***ing ridiculous.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

New Points

@Anonymous Coward – If our goal was to censor sites who have the right to Free Speech why are there only 2 false positives considering the rest are torrents. Clearly a mistake.

For what it’s worth, it appears there were significantly more than “2 false positives.” I named a few, but others have pointed out more.

Also, it’s worth pointing out that saying this was a “bug” doesn’t really cut it. The document you sent swore *under penalty of perjury* that these were accurate and that you had the copyright.

Anonymous Coward says:

New Points

The bigger issue here is that the removal was ABLE to occur AT ALL without any verification whatsoever that there was ANY content that COULD be infringement much less WAS infringement by simply sending the takedown request regardless of who or why the request was sent in the first place. This is the BIGGEST problem with PIPA/SOPA/DMCA like laws. There is no burden to prove allegations prior to execution and no consequence for damages caused by false allegations.

darryl says:

and no one noticed !! or cares..

what is SO FUNNY is this page being blocked, and no one noticing it!!!

says a great deal more than any words said here !

Masnick, are you telling us your method of ‘research’ is googling “techdirt” to see your past articles ? is that how you ‘manage’ this site ?

So if you need to reference anything you have posted here, you need to Google it ?

Seems like the only people or person who is interested in what you have written in the past Masnick, is yourself.

Anonymous Coward says:

The competency of a DMCA bot maker

come on !!! we all know that Masnick does not have a clue about running an effective or efficient web site. He’s been told many times about the poor quality and presentation of this site. But Masnick will have none of it, TD is perfect, just ask him HAHAHAHAHA..

But masnick ‘understands’ ‘tech’ and the internet, but no one else does. for proof of this FACT just look at the quality and presentation of TD !

Keith Irwin says:

Other interesting hits...

Yeah, you’ve almost nailed it. They apparently do a series called Innocent High and the strange pages have this in common: including the article and visible comments, they all have the words “torrent”, “innocent”, and “high” in them. Come on, guys, at least put quotes around “innocent high” in your Google search.

PaulT (profile) says:

Interesting, but not complete

“You left out that this was just an index removal on Google only.”

Erm, the entire article is about not finding the site on Google. He says “Well, as I just discovered, that post cannot be found directly via Google any more.”, and then prceeds to talk about Google and only Google.

Does he really need to be more specific than that?

lunchmeat (profile) says:

What's In A Name

Tech Dirt commenter’s names match in whole or partial to names on the front page of the other site. I think this is how they do it. These types of take-downs are more common now that more and more people are using real. or fictionally real names.

Ashley
Jamie
Charlotte
Allen
Ryan
Russell
Mimi
Asia
Allen
King
Casey
Chris
Olivia
Smith
Olson
Jordan (5)
Ryder (3)
James (8)

Unique partials or common with multiple hits
Jay (+11)
Blaze
Roxx (x)
Rox (7)
Chris (3)
Jen (+12)
Hristo (5)
Michael (5)
Lee (12)

Stig Rudeholm (profile) says:

Apology

– “We are actually auditing all of our previous DMCA’s to Google today to ensure no one else is being DMCAed by mistake.”

It’s cool that you’re on here apologising and all, but wow…

You’re auditing all the DMCA’s now? When were you planning on doing that anyway? Never? It’s been over a month, and you’re only doing it now because you ended up in a shitstorm over one item on the list.

How about if you had done an audit of that list before you sent it off to Google?

And using a keyword based search to determine what pages to add to the list? Shame on you, that’s borderline retarded, honestly.

I’m sorry for sounding hostile, but I really don’t think you grasp the gravitas of your mistakes.

Afzal Rahman (profile) says:

Re:

And 253: Techdirt’s SOPA article- FUCKING AGAIN!
#255: An anime discussion forum (at least, I don’t see it as being very useful).

The last two lines are gold:
“I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described in all notifications submitted through the Program as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”

“The information in all notifications submitted through the Program will be accurate, and I swear, under penalty of perjury, that with respect to those notifications, I am the copyright owner or am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.”

Accurate my arse.

fairusefriendly (profile) says:

Re:

and it would be nice if making a false DMCA takedown had the same penalty as infringing on a copyright, however copyright infringement has a statutory damages component and bogus DMCA do not.

That being said, maximizing/properly allocating the actual damages is the best you can do legally.

Tech dirt just happens to have accidentally created some liability for this bogus take down which they should exploit to establish the precedent. Considering court cost are one of the things that is explicitly covered it a freebie.

Add the fact that it a dirty porn company who is making the bogus complaint, the anti porn sentiment would actually make it the easiest fight.

Anonymous Coward says:

John @armovore

I hope your mistakes cause a tidal wave of regulatory review and scrutiny. I love how you have no qams about how your unfinished product deprived people of this country their constitutional rights. You should be ashamed and shutter your business immediatly since it’s obvious your ehtics are extremely misplaced.

We’ll be watching you…………………….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Really, darryl? And you wonder why no one takes you seriously. Mike posts something? You accuse him of not citing anything, while you never cite any sources claiming that you don’t claim to be an intellectual. You get responded to? You insult everyone for reading your posts. Mike points out how the system is wrong? You blame him for being a pirate. Mike forgives the system? You insult him for being cowardly. People pay for Murdoch’s content? You call them idiots. People refuse to pay for Murdoch’s content? You call them criminals.

For fuck’s sake, we can work out compromises with the industry, but it’s clear that there’s no pleasing you. Go crawl back under your rock.

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