Hollywood Studios, Big Fans Of Automated DMCAs, Also Very Busy DMCAing IMDB For Some Reason
from the automatically-wrong dept
We’ve made the point repeatedly that when people think of the DMCA takedown process being utilized, they likely never consider how it’s actually used in practice. That is to say, the picture in the heads of many is some artist somewhere firing off an email to a service provider upon finding his or her work being pirated. How this typically works, however, is that the whole process is automated, with bots scraping internet content and issuing DMCAs automagically as part of its algorithm. And, considering how often the results include errors, this is a massive problem with speech on the internet.
Hollywood is of course big fans of this automated DMCAing of the internet. After all, real enforcement of their copyrights is a hell of a lot of work and what’s a few innocent websites getting caught up as collateral damage compared with a movie studio’s ability to silence anything it thinks might be infringing? And, yet, often times the errors are so laughable so as to make our point about the dangers in all of this, such as when Hollywood studios go about accidentally sending DMCA notices for content on IMDB.
This works fine, most of the time. But, in common with their human counterparts, these bots aren’t perfect. This was made painfully visible last month when Topple Track had to disable its reporting tool after it triggered a wave of faulty takedown notices.
That was not an isolated incident though. None of these takedown tools are perfect.
Over the past few weeks, we noticed another worrying trend. Suddenly, Google started to receive a lot of DMCA notices for the Internet Movie Database, with the majority of these requests coming from the UK-based reporting agency Entura International.
IMDB, which has been around for nearly three decades, is almost certainly not suddenly in the copyright infringement business. So what happened? Well, on many of the DMCA notices, the notice will include a reference link to the IMDB page for the pirated film or show to give whoever is reviewing the notice a sense of what the work is. But, apparently due to a bug in the software, if there is nothing listed as a “pirate link” in the DMCA notice, the automated notice automatically moves the IMDB reference link into that field. The result is that the notices are going out stating that a film’s IMDB page is the infringing content. This happened to the IMDB page for Amazing Spider-Man 2, for instance.
Now, as TorrentFreak points out, Google has wisely put IMDB on a whitelist that keeps most if not all of these notices from having their otherwise censorious effect. But does anyone really believe that IMDB is the only website that would otherwise have been mistakenly caught up as collateral damage? Of course not. There are likely much smaller, lesser-known sites out there that have fallen victim to this automated fuck up.
If that isn’t a problem for free and open internet speech, it’s hard to imagine what would be.