Fantastic: Now British Firms Are Getting In On The Bogus Website/Bogus DMCA Notice Scam


Here we go again: intellectual property laws being abused to silence critics. In this case — which resembles the tactics exposed by Pissed Consumer recently — bogus copyright claims contained in bogus DMCA notices are being used to remove negative reviews from websites.

In this case, it’s a British firm — one that first tried to abuse that country’s oft-abused defamation laws.

[Annabelle] Narey, who is the head of programme at an international children’s charity, had turned to London-based BuildTeam for a side return extension, but almost six months later, the relationship had turned acrimonious. The build, which was only supposed to take 10–14 weeks, was still unfinished, she wrote. “On Christmas day a ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom,” she says, apparently due to an issue with the plumbing. “Mercifully no one was hurt. [That] there seem to be so many glowing reports out there it is frankly curious. Proceed at your own risk,” the review concluded.

BuildTeam disputes her account. In a letter sent to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey, the builders complained that the comments were defamatory. They say it is “untrue” that the ceiling fell down due to an issue with plumbing, and cited a total of 11 statements they claimed were defamatory.

Mumsnet refused to remove the post, so BuildTeam decided to start harassing Narey at her home, showing up with printouts of the negative review and asking for it to be taken down. BuildTeam’s reps refused to discuss Narey’s accusations or verify for themselves the damage allegedly caused by their work. They were only interested in the removal of the review.

More unsatisfied customers joined Narey’s thread at Mumsnet. So, BuildTeam decided to nuke the entire thread from orbit by abusing the DMCA process and IP laws meant to protect artistic endeavors, not shoddy construction work.

As soon as the DMCA takedown request had been filed, Google de-listed the entire thread. All 126 posts are now not discoverable when a user searches Google for BuildTeam – or any other terms. The search company told Mumsnet it could make a counterclaim, if it was certain no infringement had taken place, but since the site couldn’t verify that its users weren’t actually posting copyrighted material, it would have opened it up to further legal pressure.

But there was no copyright infringement. The DMCA notice links back to a bogus site created solely for the purpose of posting the review BuildTeam wanted removed, backdating it so it appeared to predate Narey’s complaint, and use that post as the basis of a bogus takedown request.

The website crafted for the purpose of crafting bogus takedown requests follows the same M.O. we’ve seen elsewhere: random bits of content are scraped to create the appearance of a legitimate website. After that, the reviews companies/individuals want to see vanished are mixed in and DMCA notices issued.

Someone calling themselves “Douglas Bush” now claims Narey’s negative review of BuildTeam was written by him, according to his overwrought DMCA takedown request.

I’m upset at finding out my article was copied without my permission starting at “Do not be taken in by the slick facade this company presents to the public”, word for word, till the very end. My name was also removed from the post, and now it looks like it’s not mine. I flagged the post and mentioned that it was stolen, but they did not remove it (about a month passed). At least I want it to be removed from Google. Thank you

As the Guardian’s Alex Hern points out, there is no “Douglas Bush.”

The post, headlined “Buildteam interior designers” was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it, and was signed by a “Douglas Bush” of South Bend, Indiana. The website was registered to someone quite different, though: Muhammed Ashraf, from Faisalabad, Pakistan.

BuildTeam denies having anything to do with Ashraf, Bush, the bogus website, or its bogus DMCA takedown notice — a statement that deserves no more credibility than “Douglas Bush” himself. This sort of thing does not happen in a vacuum. It may be that BuildTeam has created plausible deniability by placing a series of intermediaries between it and this bogus DMCA takedown, but it’s no coincidence that a review it wanted removed badly enough it sent reps to Narey’s house has now been destroyed by a scraper site doing double duty as a half-assed reputation management service.

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Companies: buildteam, mumsnet

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Comments on “Fantastic: Now British Firms Are Getting In On The Bogus Website/Bogus DMCA Notice Scam”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Re: What I find funny...

If it is removed from Google then it has been removed completely from the Internet.

Bing and Yahoo are just internet wannabes. Not the real internet like Google.

It is amazing how long TCP/IP existed before Google came along and invented the internet. But all those years were just build up of infrastructure so that Google could build the internet.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: What I find funny...

File this perception (that Google = the internet) under the “taking my picture steals my soul” school of thought. Or maybe the “how do they get all those tiny actors into my TV set” line of thinking.

It’s just gobsmacking how many otherwise intelligent people believe Google is inside their computer.

Anonymous Coward says:

and if Google was to do it’s job and Congress it’s job, this sort of thing would never happen but because those who make the laws are ‘encouraged’ to leave out every possibility that false accusations can lead to as big a fine/jail time as genuine accusations, it will continue to put genuine grievances under the cosh!!

Ben (profile) says:

But what did they accomplish?

So they created a website that held exactly the same content; did they then remove that site after the DMCA notice took down the “original”? Otherwise all those complaints about BuildTeam are still there in the web and should be found by Google’s crawler.

They’ve effectively doubled the instances of the complaints on the web.

That One Guy (profile) says:

'Working as intended'

If only there was some penalty for fraudulently using the law to censor stuff you don’t like…

Oh right, there is no penalty because that’s not how it was written, it’s meant to be so completely one sided that there’s only incentive to remove, never incentive to keep something up, and making a takedown claim carries no risk while contesting it very much does.

That One Guy (profile) says:

"I'm less offended that you lied as I am that you think I'm stupid enough to believe you."

BuildTeam denies having anything to do with Ashraf, Bush, the bogus website, or its bogus DMCA takedown notice — a statement that deserves no more credibility than “Douglas Bush” himself.

Yes, of course, clearly some random guy in Pakistan just one day decided to fraudulently copy a comment that BuildTeam had been harassing the poster to take down for the sole purpose of fraudulently claiming that he had written it and demanding it’s removal. Makes perfect sense.

They may have plausible deniability in that it’s likely impossible to prove a connection between them and the fraud, but they most certainly don’t have believable deniability, as to imagine that the events that occurred were just ‘coincidental’ in achieving exactly what they wanted but had been unable to gain beforehand stretches probability well beyond the breaking point.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Chicken

Depends on whether or not they have the money to fight back. It’s hard to fault a small company for caving if fighting back will bankrupt them, even if by giving in once they make it more likely that they’ll get the same treatment later on. If a large company does it though… yeah, they deserve to be called out on their stupidity and the fact that doing so just emboldens those sending out the threat/shakedown letters.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Chicken

Erm, no. The problem is a system that allows things like this to go unchallenged:

“BuildTeam decided to start harassing Narey at her home, showing up with printouts of the negative review and asking for it to be taken down”

You’re honestly saying that the person who was being personally harassed (after putting up a fight, btw) is the problem and not the people who decided to do such over a bad review?

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