Starz Issues Laughably Unbelievable Excuse And Apology For Taking Down Tweets

from the not-how-it-works-guys dept

Earlier today, I posted my article about how Starz was issuing obviously bogus takedowns concerning tweets about a news story on TorrentFreak concering how a social media agency, The Social Element, had issued bogus DMCA takedown notices to Twitter, about another story on TorrentFreak about some TV shows leaking online.

Last night I had reached out to Twitter, The Social Element, and Starz, but had not received a real response by the time the story went out (Starz had emailed back suggesting that I did not give them enough time to respond, but had somehow managed to issue a weird apology statement to others). Eventually, more than half an hour after my story went out, Starz emailed me the following statement:

STARZ takes piracy and copyright infringement very seriously and must take steps, when necessary, to protect our content and creative IP as it is the core of our business. As such, we engage a third-party vendor to seek out and remove social media posts that provide access to illegally acquired content. The techniques and technologies employed in these efforts are not always perfect, and it appears that in this case, some posts were inadvertently caught up in the sweep that may fall outside the DMCA guidelines. That was never our intention and we apologize to those who were incorrectly targeted. We are in the process of reviewing all of the impacted posts as well as the scope and procedure for the previous takedowns and are working with our vendors to reinstate any such content that was inappropriately targeted for removal.

This statement appears to differ, slightly, from the one they gave to Variety, where they sort of tried to imply that mysterious hackers were responsible, saying that the company had ‘recently incurred a security breach” which somehow (why?!?) “prompted the company to hire a third party for copyright enforcement.” I don’t see how a security breach would necessitate such a hiring. Nor do I see what that has to do with sending bogus takedowns, many of which appeared to come directly from Starz, and not from any third party. At the very least, Starz didn’t use the “security breach” claim in the statement it sent me.

However, that does not make the statement any more believable. By my count, using Lumen Database (which might not be complete), The Social Element sent 42 DMCA takedowns to Twitter over this topic between April 8th and April 11th. Then Starz itself took over on Saturday the 13th and sent another 31 notices on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 73 such notices. Both of the notices are notable for the lack of any information other than the links to the tweets, which would at least suggest that they may have been sent by the same individual or firm, who then changed who it claimed to actually be sending the takedowns.

I asked Starz if it could say if The Social Element was the third-party vendor in question, and Starz informed me that it “cannot confirm which vendor” was involved. The Social Element itself has not responded to multiple emails (and a phone call).

Meanwhile, the other aspects of Starz’s statement are similarly unbelievable. We agree with Starz that the “techniques and technologies” employed by companies who file DMCA takedowns are not always perfect (though, it’s nice for a Hollywood company to finally acknowledge as much), but the idea that it was not Starz’s intention to target people reporting on news and that the tweets were “incorrectly targeted” is literally unbelievable given the notices that Twitter users received. Multiple ones stated that the takedown demand forwarded to them by Twitter noted that the takedown was specifically because the tweet “leads to article containing unreleased show imagery.” In other words, they knew exactly what they were doing.

The other problematic part of the statement from Starz is the claim that some of those “caught up in the sweep… may fall outside the DMCA guidelines.” No, it’s not the “DMCA guidelines” that are the problem. It’s the actual law. Copyright law does not allow you to censor news articles you don’t like, or tweets about those news articles, and yet that’s exactly what Starz has done.

I responded to Starz by pointing out these problems with the statement and suggesting, politely, that the statement would come off as entirely unbelievable, and that the company might want to consider putting out a more believable statement. The company declined to do so, simply reiterating:

“… we are reviewing and addressing all of the processes and procedures by which we are identifying and acting on social posts and activity that may have triggered these notices being sent, as there were clearly individuals and posts being targeted that should not have been per the guidelines.”

Again, it’s not “guidelines” that are the issue here, but copyright law itself.

Either way, thanks to Starz for, once again, demonstrating why demanding more aggressive copyright and enforcement almost always leads to out and out censorship.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: starz, the social element, twitter

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Comments on “Starz Issues Laughably Unbelievable Excuse And Apology For Taking Down Tweets”

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37 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: actually balanced rather than entirely one-sided

Umm, no?

Though I’m almost certain that was meant humorously, just for clarity my point was that the DMCA(and most copyright law really) is entirely one-sided, in that those receiving claims face penalties for not acting on them and/or trying to fight back, but those sending them face no penalties whatsoever, even for blatant abuse of the system(or using it as it was intended, depending on how cynical you care to be).

If there were real penalties for abuse of the various copyright laws that even came close to the penalties for infringement or even accusations of infringement then you’d see a lot less of said abuse, but as there isn’t… well, hardly a surprise that abuse is so rampant(which is not to say that said abuse is at all acceptable.)

Anonymous Coward says:

"Security breach" claim

They probably mean that a security breach allowed the shows to be leaked. Depending on their agreements with distributors, they might actually have some obligation to stop unauthorized distribution. It likely doesn’t require them to outsource that, and certainly wouldn’t require them to be indiscriminate.

Matthew Cline (profile) says:

Re: To play Devil's Advocate...

and certainly wouldn’t require them to be indiscriminate.

Perhaps they not only have a contractual obligation to mitigate unauthorized distribution, but the time limit imposed by the contract is so ridiculous that the only way to meet that limit is to use a bot to immediately issue a takedown notice for anything that could possibly be unauthorized distribution.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

And which lawyer did NOT file a defamation lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations over said Ripoff Report?

Didn’t someone say here that online reputations are deserved? Does that apply even when the lies one tells are easily proven false? Section 230 prevents them from being removed even when proven to be lies. This sets up innocent internet users to be sued for repeating what they read online, based on the incorrect assumption that if it’s on the internet, it’s true.

Toom1275 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Sun shines on a dogs ass once in a while.

Jhon already posted a fictional conspiracy (originally made up by Roca labs) about some defamatory conspiracy between pissedconsummer/Ramdazza/Mikedirt.

Either his brainrot has progressed so far he forgot all about that, or he’s been busy sewing/pirating a different whole-cloth defamatory conspiracy. Perhaps this one including The Lying Indian™.

Anonymous Coward says:

Abuses of the DMCA or of copyright law in general should be severely sanctioned, as this makes it difficult for legitimate rightsholders, particularly indies, to enforce their own rights.

I’ve sent maybe a half-dozen DMCA notices in my entire life to cover almost two dozen content items. That’s not abuse. I did notice that one place required that the notice include an explicit waiver of liability for the intermediary, which the law does not provide for. Without that explicit waiver, the intermediary refused to acknowledge the DMCA notice as valid.

"Red flag" liability should also apply.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Without that explicit waiver, the intermediary refused to acknowledge the DMCA notice as valid.

Assuming this was a US-based company, it doesn’t matter whether they acknowledge the notice as valid. If your notice met all of the requirements of 512(c), it’s valid. If the intermediary doesn’t act accordingly, they lose their safe harbor protection.

Anonymous Coward says:

We agree with Starz that the "techniques and technologies" employed by companies who file DMCA takedowns are not always perfect….

Too true. Despite their best efforts, almost a hundredth of one percent of their notices actually contain valid URLs to content of some sort; and it is at least conceivable that some of that content is infringing.

Lincoln Brash Behemoth says:

So was done by time you got 'round to it...

And yet you seem to be taking credit for putting in the whammy.

Typical Techdirt. Going for cheap "win", which may well have been due to lousy automating, ’cause you’re so desperate for any victory.

While you neglect dozens of vastly more important topics. — Did you even notice that, YES, the EU passed the dread Internet-ending Article 17? Pirates and piracy are slowly being taken down by Law.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Truly, they are the gift that keeps on giving

Possible automation results in bogus DMCA claims: ‘Nothing to see here, probably just an accident.’

Actual automation results in their comment(s) being caught by the spam filter: ‘Conspiracy, this is proof that TD staff are out to get me and are as obsessed with me as I am with them!’

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

To use a line I learned on the Twitters from Sex Workers…

FUCK YOU, PAY ME.

You hired a company to do for you.
They went apeshit & then double, tripled, quadrupled down on it.
There isn’t an apology large enough to cover this, but I bet if you were forced to pay for each bad notice you might fire your super hero team for hurting your bottom line.

Its time to make the penalties the same on both sides, if only because it would force the **AA’s to the table to fix the law. They will whine and scream about how unfair it is, and then they might have a tiny spark of understanding of how unfair the laws been to everyone else left to bear the burdens & costs of their jackassery.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Its time to make the penalties the same on both sides, if only because it would force the AA’s to the table to fix the law. They will whine and scream about how unfair it is, and then they might have a tiny spark of understanding of how unfair the laws been to everyone else left to bear the burdens & costs of their jackassery.

Not a chance, I’ve no doubt that they would merely try to once more exempt their half from any sort of penalties, such that it was right back to being entirely entirely one-sided.

That said, I am all for the penalties being equal for both sides, as if their victims have to suffer then so should they, and some actual penalties would drastically cut down on abuse, even if it wasn’t enough to convince them to rethink the whole thing.

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