DMCA Notices So Stupid It Hurts

from the yay-dmca dept

Google’s decision to be much more transparent about DMCA takedowns for search has revealed a swathe of absolutely ridiculously stupid DMCA notices. We’ve covered some already, but TorrentFreak has found some more — including multiple cases of DMCA notices by copyright holders that aren’t just against their own best interests, but are often against content they, themselves, put up. This isn’t even a situation like Viacom suing YouTube over clips that Viacom’s employees had uploaded. In those cases, at least, it involved attempts to make the clips look unauthorized.

Here, however, it appears to just be ridiculous bad processes in place to make sure DMCA takedowns are legit. There is, for example, the case of Warner Bros. sending a DMCA takedown for the IMDB page of its own movie, Wrath of the Titans. It also demanded that the Guardian newspaper’s showing of the official trailer of the movie be removed from Google search. Ditto the official trailer on Apple’s site and Hulu’s site. And, let’s not forget the BBC America news article about how the film might be “critic proof” as well as a page from Charleston South Carolina’s newspaper, The Post & Courier about the film and telling people where to go see it. Though, I guess Warner Bros. lawyers didn’t want you to see it at all, because all of those were DMCA’d for being in Google’s search.

It’s almost as if the lawyers at Warner Bros. are so clueless that they were actively trying to hide any legitimate marketing for the movie. I’m sure their colleagues in the marketing department must have been just thrilled about these efforts.

The TorrentFreak article lists out a bunch more takedowns, directed at news sites, often promoting the works in question:

In addition to the Warner instance mentioned above, the RIAA asked Google to delist a review of the album Own The Night published on The Guardian. The artist behind the album is Lady Antebellum, signed to RIAA-member Capitol Records.

Even more worrying, the RIAA asked Google to delist Last.fm’s entire Electro Pop section because they thought it carried a pirate copy of All About Tonight by Pixie Lott.

Warner also reappeared later on, asking Google to delist a page on news site NME which lists information on the latest movies, which at the time included information on the movie Hall Pass. The same page on NME was targeted on several other occasions, including by anti-piracy company DtecNet on behalf of Lionsgate, who had info on The Hunger Games delisted.

Hollywood Reporter didn’t fare much better either. Sony Pictures asked Google to swing the banhammer against the popular news site after it published an article called “Trent Reznor Releases Six Free Tracks From ‘Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ Soundtrack” and Sony mistook it for a DVDRIP.

But as soon as Sony’s piracy fears on the first ‘Dragon Tattoo’ movie had subsided they were back as strong as ever with the sequel. This time the sinner was Wikipedia who dared to put up an information page on the movie The Girl Who Played With Fire. Luckily Sony were on hand to ask Google to delist the page.

The more you play around, the more examples like this you can find. Zuffa, the notoriously litigious folks behind UFC, demanded a Hulu link be disappeared from Google search, despite Hulu only posting authorized content.

Sony Music and the Estate of Michael Jackson tried to get a page on Last.fm for Slave to the Rhythm removed as infringing.

Let’s see… we’ve got Universal Music/Interscope (by way of Web Sheriff) demanding that Google delete a link to Wall Street Journal post (reprinted from Mashable) embedding an official Lady Gaga video from last year. Oh, and that wasn’t all. They also went after an MTV news article about the video shoot — which did contain some footage that someone had shot from a distance, but that seems extreme to kill the whole article. Ditto for a NY Post article.

Sony Music Nashville was so worried about a Carrie Underwood leak that it tried to erase a Reuters archive page from 2008 that just lists a bunch of headlines — none of which has anything to do with Carrie Underwood.

TorrentFreak noted above that the RIAA asked the Guardian to takedown its review of the Lady Antebellum album Own the Night, but that wasn’t the only target. The RIAA demanded that Google remove a link to a review of Lady Antebellum songs on AOL’s music site. Lady Antebellum was clearly so upset by AOL breaching its copyright that the band posed for a photo at AOL studios.

For most musicians, getting onto Pitchfork is a goal. For the RIAA? Well, apparently Pitchfork must be stopped. That’s why it DMCA’d the tastemaker website for daring to post an article about Coldplay, in which they embedded a song directly from Coldplay’s own YouTube account. The article even notes that the band had released the song to Pitchfork. Nice going RIAA, trying to stop your own bands from getting the publicity they seek.

Anyway, that’s just after a little bit of searching… I’m sure we’ll have more examples going forward… Thanks to the folks at Torrentfreak for their initial research which inspired some of these other findings as well.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: google, riaa, viacom, warner bros., youtube

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Comments on “DMCA Notices So Stupid It Hurts”

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88 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Quid Est Macho?

Maybe I’m stupid (there’s a little troll bait) but this all sounds an awful lot like corporate-driven censorship.

Stupid, my ass. That’s exactly what modern America Inc. is – a country ruled by a corporate-driven conspiracy of Wealthy Anonymous Fascists out silence anyone and anything it bloody well pleases. Just ask Julian Assange or Kim Dotcom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Looks legit to me.

That is kind of funny. It *would make business sense to try and drive “Internet nickels” to your own site through nefarious takedowns. However the offenders in this have yet to even plan a useful media service people would want to use, choosing instead to spend all their time lamenting the old days, poo-pooing “Internet nickels” and settling harrassment cases out of court.

KingofDarkness says:

Re: @ Ima Fish

I thought the same thing. Google is effectively exposing these companies and their utter stupidity by releasing these DMCA requests. I am guessing it is an attempt to squash all of the ignoramus requests that bog the whole system down.

Patents, copyrights, trademarks… these are the small fry distractions given to the public while corporate power becomes more absolute… smh

TasMot (profile) says:

How long before the metaphorical foot starts hurting

I hope that Google has the good sense to let them shoot themselves in the metaphorical foot as often as they want. After all, the DMCA is never abused (despite evidence to the contrary) by them and “it is all good” they say. Or, is this really a diabolical plan to prove that they are being hurt by the pirates? After all, that “great” movie that they produced didn’t do very well at the box office (for example It’s a Wonderful Life and Attack of the Killer Tomatoes were box office flops but went on to become HUGELY popular movies – obviously for different reasons). BUT, if they can claim a movie failed at the box office and hide the fact that they took down all the reviews, directions to the theaters and trailers, then it must be because of pirates. Right?

Wally (profile) says:

Bots

I’m beginning to think the lawyers are being lazy and just sending bots out to find the “infringement” problems. Some of these takedown requests sound like a bot with a poor parser looking for words rather than relevance. I’m going to run an experiment and type three words to see if it gets noticed: here goes:

Torrent Download Avengers Free.

Now the waiting game 🙂

Jason (profile) says:

Wow

When you shine the light of day on DMCA takedowns, they sure smell bad.

I am very impressed with Google’s posting of this information.

But it makes me wonder. Why is violating copyright punished at thousands of dollars per occurrence, but incorrect DMCA takedowns are punished by “please give a lackluster apology….”

Wrongful DMCA takedowns should cost the copyright holders massive penalties per occurance.

Anonymous Coward says:

Try to see things from the studio's perspective...

Geez, another lopsided article from Pirate Mike.

Studios pay millions (sometimes billions) of dollars for marketing. In fact, some of the most successful movies pay more for marketing and advertising than they do for production! Likewise, music companies pay radio stations and other places thousands of dollars for marketing and airplay.

Then these evil filthy pirate sites like AOL, Hulu, and IMDB start doing the marketing for free, taking money away from hard working executives and marketers!

Please, won’t someone think of the marketers?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Try to see things from the studio's perspective...

Sadly though, I’m not entirely sure this isn’t the reason.

Note that the DMCA notices were sent to Google, not to the places hosting the “infringment”. It’s possible that the actual websites received a notice as well, but since they’re still up (and there’s no trace of the notices on Chilling Effects) it seems that these notices were only sent to Google.

The only logical conclusion I could come up with was that the studios sending the notices knew they were bogus, but these sites were showing up before “paid” sites in Google.

The post just flowed from there.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Try to see things from the studio's perspective...

This is my response to Big MAFIAA DMCA
1.Any Artist who signs with the MAFIAA has made the Bed they will sleep in and they are immediately a Traitor in my eyes.
2.I have absolutely no sympathy for any Artist,Company,Worker, or asny person who is in MAFIAA.They are my Enemy and I want nothing to do with their greedy Industry.
3.I wish Google would just go and remove every single mention of any MAFIAA Content from its Search Engines.I would not care one bit.Just take the whole shebang down.Fuck the MAFIAA if they don’t like it.
4.Great sarcasm on your comment

Anonymous Coward With A Unique Writing Style says:

Re: Outta be a LAW!

“And with the money left over, Lear jets for everyone!”

I read this and started laughing because it reminded me of that Treehouse of Horror Simpsons episode where Kang and Kodos replace Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. The scene where Bob Dole/Kang says, “Hmm… Abortions for some, miniature American flags for others.” And the crowd goes nuts (in a good way).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Response to: Anonymous Coward on May 30th, 2012 @ 11:30am

LawyerBot 5000 Online. Initializing take-down notice and legal nastygram. Sequence complete. Parsing records for Anonymous Coward. Target acquired. Initializing squadron of SpookBots to home. Sequence complete. Initialize evil laugh. Sequence complete.

Karim says:

Oh please oh please

I think it’s clear that this awesome extension to google’s transparency report is an indicator that they are not happy about the manual or semi-manual processing of some 300k Perl-script grabbed “infringing URLs” each week.

Please oh please google, please turn this into some sort of corporate espionage lawsuit. M$ keep spamming you with takedown requests while allowing those “evil” URLs to remain in their index (or shoebox or cookie jar or whatever M$’s scienticians call it). Surely that’s just a way of wasting your time and resources?

In my mind, some such awesomeness just *has* to be brewing. This is more than just a toy which exists solely for the amusement of bloggers. This is more akin to the Jurassic Park water ripples. (Oh f*&^ can I get sued now?)

/rant

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just curious if you have data showing that all of the notices you deem problematic are in fact directed at sites already authorized by the rights holder to host some or all of the content.

Dude. Seriously?

Trust me, don’t go down this route. Even though we’ve been showing repeatedly how consistently wrong you are, you don’t want to be the guy who defends Warner Bros. DMCAing their own IMDB page on a movie.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Just curious if you have data showing that all of the notices you deem problematic are in fact directed at sites already authorized by the rights holder to host some or all of the content.

Why does IMDB or NME or the New York Post need authorization from the “rights holder” to talk about the content? Sure, if they actually copied the content, I can see your request making sense, but talking about it/reviewing it is not the same as copying it. If anything, this is proof that the DMCA has some very, very serious First Amendment issues in regards to prior restraint.

Ophelia Millais says:

Re: Re:

The notices are all “directed at” just one site, Google, to get it to delist allegedly infringing sites. Often, those sites do host, embed, or link to unauthorized content, so the notices for those sites are ostensibly valid. But the article is highlighting two other situations for which the notices are arguably invalid: 1. sites which host/embed/link to authorized content, and 2. sites which don’t host/embed/link to any content owned by the copyright owner, but rather just contain certain keyword combos. No claim was made that all of the notices are for #1; examples are given for both, with many more for #2 than for #1.

Asking for stats is fine; it’d be interesting to see what percentage of the invalid notices are for authorized content, and what percentage of all notices are invalid. But your mischaracterization of the article seems to suggest that you were actually asking a rhetorical question, trying desperately to cast doubt on the notion that the copyright owners and their agents are, at times, quite reckless in their methods, in ways that waste time & money and that ultimately limit people’s access to non-infringing content.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

No no, that’s what they’re hoping will happen.

See, used to be terrible movies still got a pretty good showing, because everyone had to go and watch it themselves, or hear about it from their close friends and family to find out how it was. Now, just the first-day people can watch it, and tell the world via the internet. And from that point the sales will tank as people just don’t go to see it.

So you see, reviews for movies like that actually are harming the film industry. Or, summed up in a single line:

The internet: Good for good movies, bad for bad movies.

Anonymous Coward says:

All of it just goes to show the issues of DMCA. In order to even try to keep up with the flood of illegal uses, content owners are forced to use automated systems to try to track down all the offenders, and sometimes, yes, they overstep.

It really just proves that DMCA should be abolished – and we can return to the pre-DMCA days where all violations were straight up violations.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Well, put it this way – when infringers don’t have an “oops” such as the DMCA, there would be a whole lot less of them. Imagine a second something like YouTube operating without DMCA. Now more “oops, we let someone upload episodes of The FamilyGuy”, it would be “wow, look at that lawsuit from Fox – we better fix our business model”.

The “overreaching” that you seem to see here is nothing more than that insane amounts of efforts required by rights holders to try to stem the tide of illegal use ans distribution.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“Now more “oops, we let someone upload episodes of The FamilyGuy”, it would be “wow, look at that lawsuit from Fox – we better fix our business model”.”

It’s funny that you insist that this is the correct route, but resist any suggestion that the **AAs need to fix their business models to fit a marketplace that has changed irrevocably over the last 15 years (and no, I’m not referring to piracy, before you start).

But, I’m sure you won’t see the blatant hypocrisy there.

Seegras (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Without DMCA

Actually, I can pretty much tell how the world works without DMCA, having been there.

Fox would just send out a notice to youtube, “hey someone violates our rights”, and youtube would take the respective content down. No lawsuits needed.

They would do the same to warez sites, and if they didn’t take the content down _then_ a lawsuit would follow.

On the other hand, nobody would go to google or the piratebay or whatever to demand _references_ to infringing content to be taken down.

DannyB (profile) says:

They are NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH with these takedowns

They need to go much further. Not only should they remove all of their own promotional materials, they should remove all others’ promotional and even descriptive materials.

Theaters, for example, must remove the names of all movies from, for example, but not limited to, all outdoor and indoor signage, all tickets, movie announcements, audio recordings of show schedules, or signs showing movie schedules, web sites showing movie schedules.

And ticket prices! — (gasp!) those should be secret!

Critics giving positive or negative reviews should be cautioned never to use the actual name of the movie.

Furthermore, any references to characters should be omitted.

For those rare movies that have an actual plot or theme, no mention of any such alleged plot or theme should be permitted.

Merl says:

Re: Re: They are NOT GOING FAR ENOUGH with these takedowns

People may still recall significant portions of the move they saw. So, as they exit the theater, they should have to buy a memory license if they want to remember the film and by extension a conversation license if they want to talk about it. That license would be on a per listener basis, however.

izzitme101 (profile) says:

The only real solution to this is for us, the consumers to no longer link to any tv, movie, cartoon or music anywhere online, don’t post criticisms of anything on any websites at all, no linking new stuff to friends at all, dont read the ‘major’ consumer magazines ect.
Wonder how fast they would turn around and beg.

Unlikely tho, to many sheeple about.

Anonymous Coward says:

you don’t want to be the guy who defends Warner Bros. DMCAing their own IMDB page on a movie.

By his past methods, he’s not planning on doing that. He’s wanting to occupy your time so you can’t put up more of the damaging articles that are continually coming forward. Ones that paint the vested and entrenched industries as they really are.

All of it just goes to show the issues of DMCA. In order to even try to keep up with the flood of illegal uses, content owners are forced to use automated systems to try to track down all the offenders, and sometimes, yes, they overstep.

Yet during the time the DMCA was up for making it a law, the copyright industry was swearing up and down it would not abuse it, contrary to what we see today. If the copyright industry wants the law followed, how is it they can just blindly ignore with impunity the part of the law that says “on penalty of perjury”. Perjury does carry punitive legal punishments that are not being sought out.

I think on the whole Google has exposed what is a burden to them financially to follow the law and is setting up the example on why it is a burden and what is going on that has been attempted to be hidden as much as possible. Again a willful act of violating the law to enforce the law. Seriously hard questions could be raised in the public sector as to why the DOJ is ignoring the breaking of the law.

Ophelia Millais says:

I don’t know about that last.fm example. The Michael Jackson song “Slave to the Rhythm” is, as far as I know, officially unreleased. The last.fm info page about the song wouldn’t be infringing if the page was just informational, but the page was edited by a user to embed someone’s YouTube video whose audio track is one of the leaked recordings of this song. In this situation, the last.fm page is infringing (at least from the copyright owner’s point of view), so the DMCA notice for its Google listings is ostensibly valid.

Jay (profile) says:

Re: Processing Fee

In order to keep the DMCA Safe Harbor status, they have to take down content. There’s no way currently to have the DMCA allow people to take down content after paying a processing fee.

Although, it’s incredibly ironic that Google isn’t charging this fee while the ISPs are trying to pass on a fee to other claims of infringement.

Anonymous Coward says:

I’m missing something here. In that business law class I took a while back, we learned that facts aren’t within the realm of intellectual property protectionism. The example was that the data in the phone book can’t be copyrighted – the presentation could (concievably), but not the data. (Feist v. Rural)

Now, isn’t Google search fundamentally the same thing as a phone book? A catalog of webpages searchable by keywords?

So here’s what I’m missing: How did a search engine’s results become targets for DMCA takedowns? Can I get myself removed from phone books via DMCA? Is other data still safe to use?

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I’m missing something here. In that business law class I took a while back, we learned that facts aren’t within the realm of intellectual property protectionism. The example was that the data in the phone book can’t be copyrighted – the presentation could (concievably), but not the data. (Feist v. Rural)

Now, isn’t Google search fundamentally the same thing as a phone book? A catalog of webpages searchable by keywords?

So here’s what I’m missing: How did a search engine’s results become targets for DMCA takedowns? Can I get myself removed from phone books via DMCA? Is other data still safe to use?

The issue is 512(d), which is a part of copyright law created by the DMCA, which applies to “information location tools.” Basically it grants them safe harbor if they do takedowns on notification of links to infringing content.

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512

I agree with you that it’s *crazy* and makes no sense to think that there’s any liability in links in the first place, but I don’t think anyone wants to test that in court. The fear is that clueless judges would ignore the Feist issue you raise, and conclude instead that refusal to take down links acts as “inducement” under the Grokster decision.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I rated an answer straight from The Masnick!

“…by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or infringing activity…”

yup, that’s what I was missing alright. That convenient little ‘online’ word that seems to negate physical-world allegories and precedents.

that’d be the D in DMCA, I guess

Robert Scott Lawrence (profile) says:

Bad DMCA!

Perhaps the studios are only sending DMCA notices to take down references to their really terrible films.

“Please delete The Clash of the Titans page. The movie was so bad it infringes on common decency, among other things. We’re not sure if it’s actually copyright infringement to talk about the film, but just to be on the safe side please never mention it again. And ban anyone who does.”

CN (profile) says:

Hollywood accounting

I suppose maybe a lot of this is free publicity. In a world of Hollywood accounting, free publicity is a horrible thing. If stuff is free, how can you charge the artists for it until they they owe you everything? If a project actually makes money, people would expect to get paid. So it makes sense to have it all taken down. Even if the stuff you paid for gets taken down, you can still charge for it, it’s not your fault nobody saw it.

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