LeakID And The DMCA Takedown Notice Farce

from the 'baby'-+-'bathwater'---'competence' dept

The DMCA notice and takedown system was considered to be a significant concession on the part of the content industries when it debuted. Over the intervening years, it has become a very powerful weapon, one that is brandished carelessly by many copyright holders. In order to protect their safe harbors, hosting companies have lapsed into a state of kneejerk overreaction, shutting down sites and pulling legitimate content with little to no warning, leaving those on the receiving end of these actions to clean up the mess.

Most sites don’t have the luxury of investigating takedown notices to determine the veracity of the claims. It’s easier (and safer) to kill everything off than to sort out what’s infringing and what isn’t. The content industries are perfectly fine with killing off legitimate content and operate without fear of reprisal.

But as the number of DMCA notices increases, content providers are frequently placing this weapon in the hands of underqualified third parties who either don’t know or don’t care what’s infringing and what isn’t. We’ve seen several examples of other people’s content being claimed by these companies.

The third party DMCA patrolbot featured today first made its name known by claiming malware uploaded by a computer security researcher as its own, resulting in a shutdown of the researcher’s Mediafire account. LeakID, the “company” (and we’ll explore those scare quotes in a moment) behind the takedown practices what many other sketchy content enforcers do — bulk keyword searches. This results in false positives that get swept up with all the actual infringement, such as in the case linked above. LeakID also ordered a Microsoft Office patch (freely available at Microsoft’s website) be removed from this user’s account.

That was the big news. But that’s not the end of it. During LeakID’s sudden burst of activity, all sorts of content was falsely claimed and removed by the overeager autobot.

I was reading a story called “What Not To Expect When You’re Not Expecting It” by thehoyden. I emailed thehoyden in advance and obtained permission to make and distribute the recording. Trust me, she is not the origin of this claim.

On June 4th, the file was deleted again, without notification, this time at Sendspace.

The action heats up in September. The famous malware takedown was reported on September 6th. But there’s more.

A company called LeakID is claiming to have copyright on The Dunshelm Players’ recordings… Specifically, and very bizarrely, this DMCA has been placed on the Commentary Tracks recorded by Jake Collins, Rosey Collins, Andy Marshall, Ross Thompson, Ricky Temple and myself.

How LeakID have managed to conclude that the Commentaries have anything to do with themselves is quite beyond comprehension, as the Commentaries are in fact the material on the website that is furthest from breaching copyright; to the best of my knowledge, we have never breached copyright with any of our work, but the Commentaries don’t even include sound effects or music in the mix, they’re just recordings of a few KM fans talking about a TV show.

  • September 5 – A blogger has several files deleted from his Mediafire account after another LeakID takedown, including free Bandcamp downloads and an unreleased CDR-only demo. Contact with some of the bands whose tracks were removed from his account confirmed that they had nothing to do with the takedown.
  • September 6th – A Day-Z (Arma mod) fan has beta patches and an archived, older version of the Day Z code taken down by LeakID, apparently on behalf of “Metropolitan,” Hervé Lemaire’s (“CEO of LeakID”) own company. (“I am legal representative of lemaire which does business under the name Metropolitan.” Wha…?) The fan in question actually held a brief conversation with Mr. Lemaire, which turned out about as well as could be expected:

I did finally manage to get hold of Mr Lemaire on the phone. I began by asking (in French) if he was an agent or representative of Bohemia Interactive or Dean Hall. He said “Non.” Although I had introduced myself, I didn’t explain why I was contacting him, so perhaps he thought I was a prospective client. I then asked why he had filed an incorrect DMCA claim against the files I had hosted on Mediafire. He ummed for a second or two and then hung up. When I called back later on, his mobile phone was turned off. I haven't been able to contact him since.

There’s more out there. LeakID does most of its work for Microsoft. The only other companies listed are Citel Video, Midi Libre and a vague entity called Metropolitan. Metropolitan alone is responsible for 118,807 URLs being removed, all in a little over a month. Citel Video takedowns tend to be targeted to specific TV shows and movies, like Naruto and One Piece. Midi Libre is a French newspaper and LeakID has only sent two takedown requests in that name. Unfortunately, neither of the requests are posted online.

In fact, a majority of LeakID’s takedowns have not been posted at Chilling Effects. The few that have are very specific takedowns for Microsoft and Citel Video. (Even the specfic takedowns have some anomalies. Here’s a takedown for Microsoft that lists an album by Skinny Puppy and a copy of Minecraft as items to be removed. Interestingly, both are hosted at Mediafire.) There are some strange ones where LeakID lists itself as the copyright holder, which clearly isn’t true. The carpet bombing requests that takedown anything and everything have not been posted at Chilling Effects. Instead, only the account holders being hit with a takedown get to see these scattergun notices.

However, one of these super-vague takedowns has been posted online. It’s only a partial list of URLs, but the list of links covers all sorts of territory. It begins by stating that Hervé Lemaire is “representing” Metropolitan and is “authorized to act on behalf of an owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed.” It lists “The Expendables” and “Trespass” but the URLs listed include links to files with names like “Expendables Trailer,” “Great Teacher Onizuka Remake,” “English Football 2011-2012 Downloads,” “Max Payne Mobile,” “American Reunion Unrated,” “OS X Mountain Lion,” “Desperate Housewives Season 14,” “Daily Show Featuring Herman Cain,” “Grey's Anatomy Sea. 3,” “SQL Server 2008 Update,” etc. The list literally goes on and on.

So, what’s going on here? Is Lemaire taking submissions and compiling them all under the “Metropolitan” name? It does look like LeakID’s site does have something akin to a “link dropoff” spot, according to this post written about the company. Another possibility is that LeakID is being retained by multiple copyright holders. If so, he’s doing a lousy job vetting his search results. All sorts of legitimate content is being taken down. The last possibility is that Lemaire is freelancing in order to drum up business. If the last is true, then LeakID’s takedown requests are not valid. He’s representing no one and does not have the authority to request a takedown, no matter how blatantly infringing the content. It seems rather unlikely that he’s representing a variety of movie studios, software companies and Apple itself. The more you look at the last couple of months of takedowns (and the resulting collateral damage), the more it looks like LeakID is going “vigilante,” and issuing takedowns for anything infringing it can find.

Let’s meet LeakID. 

“Managing You Content.” There’s a confidence builder. Let’s see what’s inside.

“LeakID is the first digital agency and was founded by experts from the world of radio, television and internet.” 

The whole site is filled with approximate English and, no kidding, an mp3 that autoplays upon arrival, just like a Geocities page from a decade ago. (To stop it, press the button next to the “Privacy Policy” link at the bottom of the page.) Speaking of Privacy Policy, let’s take a look at that.

“Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet adipiscing elit.

Pellentesque sed dolor. Aliquam congue fermentum nisl…”

Yep. Placeholder text. This “company” has no privacy policy. Apparently, it was too much trouble to copy and paste one from any number of websites using barely modified boilerplate. But let’s not worry about that. How about LeakSearch, the signature anti-piracy tool?

“Leaksearch has been developed in php This tool is connected 24 hours a day to more than 30 sources that are updated every day.

Several days, even several days can go by before your product makes its way onto ‘public’ networks. With Leaksearch, you can make the most of this precious timelag to implement counter-measures and adapt your anti-pirating strategy.”

And so on. Then there’s Hervé Lemaire himself. His bio on the LeakID website paints him as someone with years of experience in the music business, including seven years in EMI’s digital department. So does his entry at Wikipedia France, which resembles a copy-paste resumé dump job more than it resembles an actual Wikipedia article. (Speaking of resumés, here’s a more thorough version, which helpfully points out that his position at EMI was “Head of Digital and Antipiracy.”)

LeakID’s official Twitter account is a mystery as well. Every tweet is a link to a Torrentfreak post, leading one to believe that Lemaire either possesses a twisted sense of irony or that the account has been hacked. If it’s the latter, there’s been no attempt to reclaim it or get it shut down.

Are companies like Microsoft willing to entrust their DMCA process to a company/person whose website is littered with butchered English and autoplays bog electronica upon entry? Even if English is not your native language, as is probably the case with Hervé Lemaire, if that’s the language you’ve chosen to communicate with, you should probably get it right. One would think that companies would be more selective when handing out their legal legwork.

And what about the numerous other companies LeakID is issuing takedowns for? If these companies listed have hired LeakID to handle their DMCA requests, it shows an appalling lack of respect for internet users across the board. Piracy, to them, must be too important to ignore, but not important enough to handle competently. If everything is above board and LeakID has been retained to handle these takedowns, the companies represented must be satisfied with quantity over quality. Collateral damage is not only acceptable, it’s considered the “price” of doing business. However, this price is paid by users who have legitimate content removed and accounts shut down.

The same companies that criticize file lockers for operating offshore to dodge US laws are outsourcing their anti-piracy efforts to offshore companies, which have little fear of being held responsible for perjuring themselves with bogus DMCA notices. It’s nearly impossible to hold anyone responsible for a bogus takedown and handing off the DMCA duties to a French company makes it that much harder. The likelihood of anyone pursuing legal recourse is virtually zero. This leaves companies like LeakID, Degban and others to serve up bogus takedowns crafted by automated processes. Those on the receiving end will just have to get used to having accounts closed and files deleted for the foreseeable future.

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Comments on “LeakID And The DMCA Takedown Notice Farce”

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57 Comments
Skeptical Cynic (profile) says:

The problem is simple

Companies like this operate with legally granted rights but are not constrained by any laws. Simply put this is the worst of the worst in terms of law. All power and no constraints when that power is abused. No consequences when that power harms others.

You have to appreciate the intelligence that was able to get the politicians to create this stupidity in the southern way. Bless their hearts.

PaulT (profile) says:

Hmmm… music didn’t play for me. I did wonder if it would be a track I recognised so that I could contact the artist and see if he had permission to use it… Hmmm…

A couple of thoughts come to mind. First of all, can a French company really be subcontracted to send legal notices under US law? I have no experience here, but it does seem rather strange if so. Surely farming your legal services out to a foreign speaking company is just asking for trouble?

The whole fiasco reminds me of cease and desist orders being sent pre-DMCA such as the Professor Usher who was told to take his lectures down because he has the same name as a singer, or the ZX Spectrum site who was ordered to take down a 40k copy of the 1980s game Soldier Of Fortune in the mistaken belief it was a new title. 2 decades later, and these clowns haven’t learned anything. presumably because they can do this without recourse from the wrongly targeted.

For the non-US users here, this really just seems to be a lesson in not using services by US companies as much as anything. The scariest thing? Knightmare was 25 years ago? Wow… that went quickly :S

out_of_the_blue says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

while pirates still get to hide offshore:
“The same companies that criticize file lockers for operating offshore to dodge US laws are outsourcing their anti-piracy efforts to offshore companies, which have little fear of being held responsible for perjuring themselves with bogus DMCA notices. It’s nearly impossible to hold anyone responsible for a bogus takedown and handing off the DMCA duties to a French company makes it that much harder. The likelihood of anyone pursuing legal recourse is virtually zero. This leaves companies like LeakID, Degban and others to serve up bogus takedowns crafted by automated processes.”

You pirates don’t seem to grasp that a) when millions (and WAY up) are at stake, corporations will use any and every means that don’t immediately land them (its officers) in jail b) that corporate technology and practices can evolve too — in fact, you seem to specifically find that unfair!

So at best you’re just whining that US laws don’t apply to overseas corporations! You just argue as convenient, never any firm principles.

Now bring on the ad hom! It’s what you fanboy / trolls live for!

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

You have obviously misread the paragraph you quoted. This is not about who is allowed to offshore things; this is about the hypocrisy of companies that criticise “pirates” for operating overseas to dodge liability, while moving their own DMCA practises overseas to dodge liability.

Rikuo (profile) says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

So…you’re criticising pirates for breaking copyright law and because you’re so scared of that, think its okay for corporations to carpet bomb the internet, with no regard for collateral damage.
“You pirates don’t seem to grasp that a) when millions (and WAY up) are at stake, corporations will use any and every means that don’t immediately land them (its officers) in jail”
Yes, hasn’t_got_a_clue, you support corporations who will leave no stone unturned in their effort at either keeping or receiving incalculable millions.
As a commenter up above said; this is a FRENCH legal company being talked about. How is it possible for a FRENCH law office to send out legitimate DMCA notices? No, it doesn’t matter to you what the law is, as long as the corporations don’t have to follow it.

Milton Freewater says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

“You have obviously misread the paragraph you quoted. This is not about who is allowed to offshore things; this is about the hypocrisy of companies that criticise “pirates” for operating overseas to dodge liability, while moving their own DMCA practises overseas to dodge liability.”

The paragraph is also part of an article about illegal, unethical, anti-artist activity deliberately engaged in by people because they know they can get away with it. Trolls claim to post here because they can’t stomach people appearing to defend or condone that. A troll whom attacks this article has no beliefs at all.

Snakkersbee says:

Vandalism in Virtual Form...

It is akin to some maniac going around a community randomly throwing bricks through the plate-glass windows of many business, thus preventing them from conducting legitimate business.

The difference, of course, is that in the brick-and-mortar world, the police would be actively searching to apprehend the culprit, so that the courts can bring them to justice, including making them pay for the wanton wholesale damage they have inflicted.

Anonymous Coward says:

if politicians weren’t so concerned with making sure the entertainment industries were ‘protected’ as much as possible, despite behaving even more illegally than any ordinary individual, they would at least ensure that the DMCA worked correctly and false takedowns were punishable to the same extent as the guilty are punished. this attitude of only the people can do wrong and can be punished, but professional people, companies, industries and governments are able to do whatever, without any recourse, is dreadful

Anonymous Coward says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

The great thing about this post is… I knew exactly who this post was from before I clicked on the ‘click to show it’ option. I can’t recall the last time I saw a post from ootb that wasn’t flagged. It almost happens now as soon as he posts. I’m waiting for them to ban this account. I wouldn’t be surprised if another account is opened sounding just like this one. I have seen it happen to a few other sites. Once banned they just come back spitting the same BS. I don’t want to call him retarded, mentally handicapped, etc b/c I don’t want to insult them by group this guy in with them.

Keii (profile) says:

Re: Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

Banning is a double edge sword.
We already know that OOTB is a certifiable troll and as you said his posts are often flagged almost immediately.
If Techdirt were to swing the banhammer down on that account, then he will almost certainly create a new account to post his drivel under. It make take some time to recognize the new account, weeks that take people longer to flag and hide, meaning more people will read his crud.

Anonymous Coward says:

Vandalism in Virtual Form...

I appreciate the irony of an AC calling out Anonymous protests as a cause for restrictions on the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech.

However the clamps came down in the late 60’s early 70’s when college students, going way over board with the momentum of anti-war protests, started taking over administration buildings just to alleviate boredom.

Anonymous Coward says:

Vandalism in Virtual Form...

college students, going way over board

Bored college students taking over administration buildings didn’t cause the pigs to burn down the whole campus.

That was Watts and Detroit and Wounded Knee (but I digress…)

Look, we still had the basic freedom to march in the streets up until the WTO (Seattle ’99). After that came the FTAA in Miami ?the infamous Miami model? and it was all over… No more peaceful marching in the streets without the tanks and flashbangs and pepper spray and tear gas and kettles.

Violated (profile) says:

The Joke

This is the world we live in these days with a DMCA free-for-all by a bunch of trained monkeys.

Congress is certainly to blame for this situation when they specified no punishment for false DMCA take-down requests. So many do not even care if their results are valid or not when at worst people can take them to Court… to recover their Count expenses… and for any actual damaged caused… which for most people is… zero. This is why no one cares to punish false take-down requests when the Court route is a whole lot of time and effort for no real gain.

As I said before if people issue false take-down requests then they should be made to pay a fixed fine. Should this happen too often then issue them a suspension. Then at last right holders have reason to respect what is not theirs.

Congress never does what you need them to when to put it simply no one is paying them to fix this problem. So DMCA law is rapidly becoming a joke and recent news like me.ga goes to show websites would prefer to by-pass the law.

nospacesorspecialcharacters (profile) says:

Fight fire with fire?

Isn’t it about time some enterprising individuals created an algorithm to comb large media entities’ websites for creative commons, public domain or other broadly similar material and send out some DMCA’s on behalf of the public.

When media conglomerates, politicians and CEO’s start getting their websites taken offline, then they’ll do something. Right now all these assholes see is the system is working because la, la, la I can’t hear you with my head buried in all this piles of money I’m making from shutting down your legitimate form of income.

Or something like that.

Possibly this could be done with websites that allow user contributions because then the DMCAssassin could claim they legitimately thought they owned copyright on their contributions. In fact where does the legal line stand with things like user comments?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

The Joke

Actually, there is a penalty, potentially a criminal one. You have to sign an oath that it’s true and correct, under penalty of perjury. Also, if you’ve been the victim of a false takedown and can dhow damages, you can sure to recover those damages.

In practice, though, these are very difficult things to do — so the “penalty” is largely symbolic.

dennis deems says:

Oh, I get it: content owners must stay in US and play fair...

I just wish we had more finely-grained reporting. There ought to be a drop-down so that users reporting a post could select the reason why. Then I could guess whether it might be worth my time (just for laughs, for example) to read the reported post anyway.

Daniel says:

So weird

An youtube video showed that leakid calimed copyright, when searching for them I´ve found their site and this one.

The only strange thing is, if the are a private company, how can they have a judge 24 hours authorizing the copyright claims, or just about any1 can simply claim copyright and take contents offline without any legal support?

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