Bogus DMCA Notices Still A Huge Problem As Apple Gets Unfairly Blamed For Reddit Takedown

from the nice-website-you-have-there dept

As we’ve discussed in the past, the DMCA system is enforced in such a way as to make it wide open for abuse. One of the chief problems is that, while the DMCA does include potential punishments for filing bogus notices under 512(f), the courts have traditionally appeared to have forgotten that this part of the law even exists. The end result is that anyone looking to censor or extort others by either filing or threatening to file bogus DMCA notices is mostly free to do so without risk. The times when 512(f) actually gets a spotlight are so few and far between as to be news when it happens. This has been going on, and has been pointed out by various publications, for years.

And yet it still goes on. Earlier, Mike wrote about Apple sending a questionable DMCA takedown to Twitter regarding a tweet, but there was a separate part of that story. Beyond the takedown to Twitter — which everyone (including Apple) recognized as coming from Apple — there were other takedowns sent to Reddit, leading the subreddit /r/jailbreak to go into lockdown. This followed the removal of several posts discussing how that Apple encryption key was taken down (as explained in the earlier post). Many leapt to the conclusion in both the media and wider internet that Apple was behind the shuttering of /r/jailbreak as well.

Since Apple was behind the takedown on Twitter and the most obvious culprit in respect of the DMCA takedowns on Reddit, many fingers were pointed towards the Cupertino-based company. However, despite the best efforts of the moderators on /r/jailbreak, Reddit’s admins would not provide the necessary information to identify who filed the DMCA notices or on what grounds.

With uncertainty apparently the order of the day, moderators of the discussion forum took the drastic decision to put their platform into lockdown.

“Locking down the subreddit to prevent new threads is one of the ‘standard’ responses moderators take to show the admins that the mod team isn’t playing, and that they are serious and ready to remedy the issue,” a post from the mods reads. “Too many DMCA notices eventually end up with a warn and a ban (or just a ban) from the admins to whatever subreddit these notices are being sent to.”

Part of the problem when it comes to this sort of thing with Reddit is that the site isn’t at all transparent about the DMCA notices it receives. Due to that lack of transparency, the logical conclusion to which everyone leapt wasn’t immediately countered by the documented reality. Because, as it turns out, the DMCA notice Reddit received which led to all of this was a fake. And a poorly constructed one at that.

And, according to fellow developer ‘axi0mX’, the fake notice wasn’t particularly well constructed either.

“We reviewed it and confirmed that it was someone impersonating Apple. It was not sent from their law firm, which is Kilpatrick Townsend. There are issues with grammar and spelling,” he revealed.

“This notice was obviously not submitted in good faith, and it was not done by someone authorized to represent Apple. Not cool. They could be sued for damages or face criminal charges for perjury.”

There are multiple issues here. The DMCA is by nature open to a non-zero sum of abuse. That non-zero sum gets higher and higher due to the courts and government not bothering to enforce the parts of the law that punish the abuse and fraud. Finally, the law creates a situation where sites like Reddit can decide against transparency when it comes to these DMCA notices, meaning that the fraud works all the better in creating a public backlash against a victim that, in this case, didn’t deserve it.

If we’re going to have a DMCA at all, it sure would be nice if it could be properly enforced.

Filed Under: , , , ,
Companies: apple, reddit

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Comments on “Bogus DMCA Notices Still A Huge Problem As Apple Gets Unfairly Blamed For Reddit Takedown”

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9 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Refundable Deposit

It doesn’t need to be so high – the biggest problem isn’t individuals filing a few notices, it’s automated systems filing tens of thousands to millions of notices every day. If you made it something reasonable for a smaller person/company, say $100, it would still work on suppressing the ridiculous automated systems.

Of course, another way to fix it would be to actually allow 512(f) to be used. Even if it resulted in only minor fines, if you were fined say $200 to $500 PER NOTICE, that would again suppress the automated systems.

mcherm (profile) says:

A Solution: Basic Transparency

I thought the second TorrentFreak article you linked to made a particularly good point. The problem could easily have been avoided with a small amount of transparency. If, like Twitter, Reddit were to submit the DMCA notices it receives to Lumen (or use any other means to make them publicly visible) then this deception (as well as quite a few other abuses of the DMCA takedown system) would quickly become apparent.

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