MPAA Abusing DMCA Takedowns To Attempt A Poor Man's SOPA

from the good-luck-with-that dept

The old guard in Hollywood, so frightened of an internet they don’t understand, tends to be rather transparently buffoonish in its strategies to try to break the internet. For a few years, the MPAA was totally focused on a “three strikes” strategy — believing that if people were getting kicked off the internet, that it would lead them to stop file sharing and go back to paying large sums of money for bad movies. That plan failed miserably. The followup idea was even worse: known as full site blocking, the idea was to convince countries to pass laws that would force ISPs, search engines, domain registrars and others to completely block access not just to infringing content, but to entire sites that the legacy copyright industries deemed “bad.”

This was always problematic on a few different levels. First, the entertainment industry has a rather horrible track record of declaring some new innovation “bad” and “illegal” when it shows up on the scene, only much later realizing that the “bad” or “illegal” thing is actually exactly what consumers are looking for. In the past, the industry has attacked radio, television, the VCR, the photocopier, the DVR, the MP3 player and YouTube (among many other things). Giving Hollywood a full on veto for any new technology, before it’s had a chance to grow, thrive and show how useful it can be, seems like a great way to kill off innovation. Yet, that’s what Hollywood wants. Second, the concept of site blocking itself is incompatible with some of the very fundamentals of the internet. It breaks DNS, it creates big security problems, and it has tremendous collateral damage (not that Hollywood gives a shit about that).

The original site blocking plan was to pass SOPA in the US, which had site blocking provisions. It was seen as a slam dunk easy win by Hollywood, until suddenly, it wasn’t (thanks to the internet speaking up loudly). But, similar strategies have worked better in other countries, as courts have often ordered ISPs to block certain sites, often with little review and almost no due process. Yet, as we discovered thanks to the Sony Hack last year, the MPAA is still 100% focused on figuring out ways to implement full site blocking, even as its internal discussion admits it has no idea about the technological feasibility of it. Instead, it’s pushing on a few different fronts, from trying to get states Attorneys General involved to abusing the process at the International Trade Commission to “block” sites “at the border.”

However, it appears that the latest strategy is just to file a bunch of bogus DMCA takedown notices to Google on the top level domain, rather than on specific content. It’s no secret that the MPAA has been asking Google to implement full site blocking for quite some time — even though doing so wouldn’t actually help (because instead of the sites, you’d just get people telling you how to get to those sites or you’d get even sketchier sites). TorrentFreak noticed that the MPAA issued a bunch of questionable DMCA notices on top level domains recently, nearly all of which Google rightly rejected. The law is pretty clear that you have to be identifying the specific work to be taken down, rather than just generally pointing to a site.

The MPAA knows this, which makes the sending of a bunch of top level domains… bizarre. (TorrentFreak also points out that the MPAA may have even sent its own domain in a DMCA notice, but there’s a decent chance that that’s just someone playing a prank). The decision to file such clearly bogus DMCA notices, from an organization that is so totally focused on site blocking and which has large groups of lawyers looking for every angle to bring in full site blocking… suggests that this isn’t just the MPAA getting lazy. Instead, it may be part of a plan to try to set up a test case, in which the MPAA sues over getting Google to remove an entire domain, based solely on a takedown (or series of takedowns) on that top level domain. If so, that would be an astoundingly stupid ploy — one that the MPAA would have a high likelihood of losing. But perhaps desperate times at the MPAA call for desperate measures. Of course, we’re still wondering when the folks over at the MPAA will get desperate enough to focus on giving people what they want, rather than treating them all as criminals.

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Companies: google, mpaa

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Comments on “MPAA Abusing DMCA Takedowns To Attempt A Poor Man's SOPA”

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That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

If those ‘enforcing’ their copyrights would do so in a targeted manner, within the limits the law provides, and do their best to minimize collateral damage, then people would have a lot less problems with their ‘enforcement’.

Their ‘target everyone, who cares if they’re guilty or not’ attitude is what gets people angry with them, along with their constant attempts to ‘stop piracy’ that without fail affects everyone but their stated targets.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

What’s your enforcement? Over a decade of enforcement, tons of grandmothers, kids, homeless people, misnamed people, computerless people, dead people and laser printers, and all you caught were two douches who were fucked over by bad lawyering?

How the hell do incompetent people like you STILL have a job? If any of us did a job that shittily after ten years…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Hardly. Google receives tens of millions of valid DMCA notices a month, the majority of which come from duplicate sites. Despite this red flag knowledge, instead of delisting these repeat infringers, Google leaves them alone. And it has nothing to do with “free speech” or “innovation” or because it would “break the internet” to do so. It’s because they make money off copyright infringement. YouTube copyright infringement, Blogger copyright infringement, Ads on sites that specialize in copyright infringement, etc etc. Breaking copyright law is a core part of Google’s business model.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Is it fun being that wrong?

Youtube has an insane ‘copyright protection’ system, that like the DMCA is completely one sided, prone to false positives, and can result in people losing their accounts by having too many claims, whether accurate or not, made against them. It’s also almost entirely used for user created or posted content, and despite what some groups may want, Google/YT has no legal obligation to pro-actively police what gets posted, or act as unpaid copyright cops for those too lazy to do it themselves.

Google also has nothing to do with any content on any blog that they do not run themselves, and other than delisting specific infringing items, has no obligation to de-list entire sites on mere accusations, accusations that if they were really intended to get rid of infringing content, would be sent to the actual site hosting it, not a search engine.

And lastly, from everything I have heard from even remotely unbiased sources, Google is downright obsessive with pulling ads from any site thought to host infringing content, and even if they weren’t, the ads on sites with infringing content would be paying peanuts, as no legitimate advertisers would wish to advertise on those kinds of sites, leaving only the cheapest.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Google twists itself into pretzels in order to placate the major copyright-based industries. It’s one of the main reasons why their services have been decreasing in quality over the years.

“Despite this red flag knowledge”

Do you know what “red flag knowledge” is? Hint: getting a DMCA request is not “red flag knowledge”. It’s just an unsubstantiated accusation.

orbitalinsertion (profile) says:

Domain names. Second level domains at the very least, but some in the example already include a third level domain. Saying “top level domains” makes it sound like the MPAA is asking Google to take down results for anything, e.g., in com, org, ru, or ch.

It may seem picky, but it’s a defined term, and specific. “Entire domains” or “domain names” would probably cover the intent here.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

This is all fall-out from them buying the law they want.
They imagine a solution and try to create laws to force others to make it happen for them. It doesn’t matter if what they want can’t be done, shouldn’t be done, will cost billions… they want it done yesterday.

For far to long they have been given their way like a spoiled child, it is high time we send them to their room without supper and tell them they need to cut the lawn themselves instead of demanding everyone else do it for them.

lars626 says:

Push it a little harder

We need to have them push it harder. Bogus DMCAs, more, more.
And then have someone like Google, with deep pockets, to go after MPAA for the bogus take downs like Automattic recently did. After they loose in court several times, Google requests the court to order them to stop on the grounds that they are an abusive litigator. There is a term for that but I don’t recall what it is. Failure to comply gets them a court ordered penalty or a court mandated process if they want to issue a DMCA.

We can only hope they are that clueless.

Any Mouse says:

paradoxically one way to fix this problem is to strengthen copyright.

A DMCA takedown is you saying that you own the copyright of something yes? If you don’t then that’s copyright infringement. A false take down is theft, you have deprived me, and my potential customers, of my property.

I believe the current damages are about $150K per file. I’m sure we could use false URLs on the takedown notice as proof.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If I understand correctly, the part of a DMCA notice that the filer swears is correct is the part where they declare they are the owner of the copyright in question. It doesn’t apply to the accuracy of the claim that the pages actually infringe on that copyright.

Enforcing the penalty for perjury would be a nice thing, but wouldn’t affect the majority of the DMCA takedown abuse that we see.

leehb9 (profile) says:

Ain't gonna Happen...

“Of course, we’re still wondering when the folks over at the MPAA will get desperate enough to focus on giving people what they want, rather than treating them all as criminals.”

There’s too damn many lawyers who have to ‘produce’ to keep their jobs…busy work, mainly, but the same stupid crud over and over. Get rid of most of these idiots and start hiring folks that know how to make music, movies AND MONEY!

Anonymous Coward says:

‘Of course, we’re still wondering when the folks over at the MPAA will get desperate enough to focus on giving people what they want, rather than treating them all as criminals.’

Stop wondering. The answer is ‘never’.

Even though their entire business model is based on providing entertainment to the consumer, you have to remember that the ‘uncontrolled’ (as in, free to choose what they want, rather than controlling what they get) consumer is the enemy to them. The continuing ‘war on piracy’ is pretty clearly an attempt to regain control of what we watch/listen to/read/whatever.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The VCR didn’t allow global distribution, for marginal cost, to anyone who cared to make a film and anyone who cared to watch it. If you made a home movie, it wasn’t going to be watched by more than a handful of people, due to the physical nature of the tapes and distribution/copying of them, so no threat to them. If you wanted to have a lot of people watch it, you pretty much had to go through the gatekeepers to do so, giving them all the control.

The internet however allows anyone to make their creations available globally, with absolutely no need to go through any real gatekeepers, completely stripping them of any control and power they might have had.

As such the AC is right, the internet as it stands now is something they will never stop fighting against, as it makes them redundant and all but useless as they currently are, and they’d rather kill or cripple the internet and similar emerging innovations rather than adapt and lose some of the power and control they are so used to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

(Same AC)

That One Guy hit the nail right on the head with his comment. That’s exactly the point I was trying to make.

And on the other side of the coin is all the people that enjoy making their own entertainment decisions (which is why Netflix and others like it are so popular), and for that reason, want to keep the internet more or less the way it is.

These two visions of the internet can never co-exist. Hence the ‘war on piracy’.

I put that in quotes, because I don’t think of it as piracy, I think of it as individual choice. While there is such a thing as copyright infringement (‘piracy’), that’s not what the ‘war’ is really about. It is, in fact, a war on freedom itself.

That One Guy (profile) says:

And yet another reason not to have anything to do with them if at all possible. While it would be nice if the public grew a spine of realized what the *AA’s and those like them see the public as walking wallets and criminals to a one, and boycotted them as a result, the public in general is probably just a little too stupid for that.

However, even if that isn’t likely to happen, I can at least do my best to never give them any of my money or attention, and instead give it to those that actually deserve it.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

This looks like high-level DDoS ploy.

To me, this smacks of the MPAA trying to overwhelm Google’s DMCA takedown notice processing engine. Maybe (I’m guessing) to justify legal action on account that Google isn’t responding, or isn’t responding fast enough.

So far the MPAA and RIAA have demonstrated they’re willing to go to ANY lengths to retain their gateway position, except develop a legitimately competitive product.

Maybe that’s the thing, it’s far harder (e.g. more (cost + risk) / benefit) to make something worthwhile and try to market it, rather than to shit over everything with defensive litigation.

Padpaw (profile) says:

shame how a horribly corrupt court system means most of their illegal acts will be paid off in bribes to judges and state officials instead of actual sentencing for breaking the laws constantly.

By that I refer to the companies not the people targeted by them.

Oh your rich? well that’s a free pass on committing most crimes here in the states, just remember to pay us off and we will look the other way.

Sheogorath (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Except that the perjury charge would only apply if I was claiming that the work I wanted pulled down was either mine or that of a person I represent when it isn’t. That’s why I was careful to state that I’m neither J.K. Rowling nor her representative when getting an infringing copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone pulled from the Internet Archive (to prevent the site being shut down).

Danny K. (profile) says:

Simple Solution

I discovered “Popcorn Time” last week (for those who don’t know, it’s like Netflix but free) and even as much as I hate Hollywood, I do feel they deserve some compensation for their product. Without compensation, they can’t keep churning out product now, can they?

It seems to me the solution is simple: Encode the movie with some kind of a tag to run a commercial before and after the movie and banners reasonably throughout the movie. The amount charged for the ad would depend on how recent the movie is. Charge extra to remove banners and commercials.

Sounds simple to me.

Donald Campbell says:

Snow White has had a copyright longer than most people have been alive. I daresay that none of the original ‘artists’ involved with the production are alive today to benefit from their protection.
Google provides good service for free. Naturally, the MPAA wants to waste as much of Google’s time with their silly takedown notices to discourage people from having search engines.
Fair Use… the MPAA apparently defines this a little differently than the rest of the world. For example, how can the videos of “Hitler learns that ???” possibly do anything for the movie but provide free advertisement? You have about 3 minutes of a movie, with audio only understandable by Germans.

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