Warner Bros. Issuing Takedowns For Its Own Site Is No Laughing Matter
from the notice-and-staydown? dept
Lots of people have been talking the past few days about TorrentFreak’s discovery of the fact that Warner Bros., via its hired DMCA agent Vobile, has been issuing DMCA takedowns on its own website. Specifically, in recent notices to Google from Vobile, on behalf of Warner Bros., the infringing domains include WB’s own official websites for movies like “Batman, the Dark Knight” and “The Matrix.”
It’s easy to look at this and laugh. And the story’s been getting lots of attention thanks to places like the BBC picking up on it as well. And thus, jokes like this one are an easy target:
If this is what the singularity looks like, I'm ok with it. https://t.co/N7ybi9OuHE
— Matthew Green (@matthew_d_green) September 6, 2016
And, yes, this is hardly the first time that companies have been caught targeting themselves. After all, Viacom famously sued YouTube over Viacom’s own promotional clips that it had uploaded to the site. And, the recording industry is famous for taking down the official videos of its artists.
But here’s why this isn’t really a laughing matter: many of the legacy industry players, including Warner Bros. and the MPAA who represent WB, have been pushing very heavily for a revamp of the DMCA that would include a “notice and staydown” provision — such that once a copyright holder representative sent a notice claiming a work was infringing, platforms would basically be required to block that content from ever appearing again. In response, many of us have pointed out just how bad companies like Warner Bros. are at issuing takedowns, and we’re told that such mistakes are rare. But they’re not rare. We see them all the time. And if notice and staydown were in place, it could create all sorts of problems.
Notice, too, that it wasn’t just WB’s own site that was the target of this bogus takedown. Just two slots above it are the official Amazon sales link for the movie. Elsewhere in the list were official IMDB pages as well. Yes, Google is actually better than most at going through these notices and rejecting ridiculous requests like this, but most other companies are not. If you send a notice, it’s treated as accurate, and down go those sites. Some may consider that fair game when it’s something as ridiculous as WB taking down its own sites, but it’s not so funny when it’s someone else’s work — like the time Fox sent DMCA notices taking down Cory Doctorow’s book, Homeland, just because it had the same title as a TV show.
Meanwhile, we keep hearing from companies like Warner Bros. about how Google is really to blame, and that it’s “obvious” when there’s infringing content that should be taken down. If it’s so “obvious” why can’t WB gets its act together and not take down its own sites? Perhaps it isn’t so obvious after all and perhaps we shouldn’t make copyright policy based on the bogus claims of companies so clueless that they’re issuing DMCA takedowns on their own websites or other official channels?