DMCA Complaint Claims Copyright On The Word 'Outstanding', Wants Entries From Top Dictionaries De-Listed From Google

from the just-wait-for-upload-filters dept

Techdirt readers are by now all too familiar with how broken the DMCA takedown system is. But a recent post on TorrentFreak introduces us to some interesting new examples. It concerns the software review site ThinkMobiles. Apparently, it’s a company registered in Ukraine, and many of its authors seem to come from the region — and nothing wrong with that. As TorrentFreak notes, ThinkMobiles is very protective of its articles. The Lumen database, which collects and analyzes requests to remove material from the Web, has 376 results for the company, representing many hundreds of potential takedowns. But TorrentFreak spotted that some of the most recent ones are particularly unusual:

ThinkMobiles doesn’t restrict its searches to long phrases. It also identifies shorter combinations of words, including “Verdict: we highly recommend it” and “and click export.” Needless to say, this is causing issues.

The “and click export” takedown notice, for example, lists URLs from Adobe.com, Google.com, and Microsoft.com, that have absolutely nothing to do with the software review site.

These are common phrases used by just about every review site out there; no originality of expression is involved. It gets worse:

One notice even claims ‘copyright’ on the word “outstanding,” asking Google to remove the URLs of sites operating popular dictionaries including Cambridge and Merriam Webster.

It’s hard to know how a takedown was issued for a single word. Even if your mother tongue is Ukrainian, there’s surely no way you could believe the word “outstanding” was a unique creation worthy of copyright protection. Perhaps there is some automated system involved, but even so, it’s difficult to see why a single word would be chosen in this way. The details of why this happened don’t really matter. The larger point is that these ridiculous takedown requests were made. Fortunately, Google rejected them. But as the TorrentFreak post points out, it might have missed them. In addition, sites that just implement takedown notices automatically would have blocked links unjustifiably.

Given the way the EU’s upload filters are shaping up, that’s likely to be the case there too. Since even small sites will be obliged to filter material, there’s no way they can check things as meticulously as Google or other well-funded companies. As a result, once the EU upload filters are mandatory we can expect to see all kinds of abusive requests to block material being complied with, perhaps even for single words.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter, Diaspora, or Mastodon.

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Companies: thinkmobiles

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Comments on “DMCA Complaint Claims Copyright On The Word 'Outstanding', Wants Entries From Top Dictionaries De-Listed From Google”

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

"One notice even claims ‘copyright’ on the word "outstanding," asking Google to remove the URLs of sites operating popular dictionaries including Cambridge and Merriam Webster."

Maybe this is the real end game to copyright and trademark. After all, how can you criticise your corporate overlords if they own the very language you use to communicate your dissent?

"Perhaps there is some automated system involved"

Almost certainly. Which hits the perfect storm of minimum effort and money for nothing for the people paid to submit these things.

"but even so, it’s difficult to see why a single word would be chosen in this way"

Not really, there’s lots of reasons – incompetence, stupidity, or just the fact that since nobody faces any consequences for obviously wrong takedown
notices, why not seed the automated takedowns with as many words as you want? In fact, there’s probably someone getting a bonus for the number of takedowns sent.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Yes, the mass takedown business is as much fraud perpetrated on the copyright holders who, never seeing the actual output, are left in the belief it’s useful work worth paying real money for as it is on the internet services that have to suffer through the flood of algorithmically generated spam and its censorious consequences.

The only ones to benefit from it are the ones being paid to do it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Maybe this is the real end game to copyright and trademark. After all, how can you criticise your corporate overlords if they own the very language you use to communicate your dissent?

No. The end game is a chip in your head that blocks any thought not paid for. (And any thought those with their finger on the control button disagree with.)

After all, no need to worry about criticism if the public is physically incapable of the thoughts needed to do so.

ECA (profile) says:

Re: Re:

The fight over Automated Computers.
Any reason NOT to have admin/sysop’s Watching over things?

Then as another suggested, THE CHIP’ for everyone. Your dog already has his, Why not you? Only prob with the Chip is it cant send a signal strong enough to the SAT.

This is a Neat trick. and if it works, Could mean BETTER actions on Finding Out WHO sent take downs BEFORE you take things down. And the EU, this is going to be funny.

I suggested awhile back that a Company with register for ALL Copyrights and WHO OWNS them, would be Fantastic. It got a laugh, but WHO/WHERE do you call to verify ANY OF THE COPYRIGHTS from around the world?
Could make some Good money from both sides.

Samuel Abram (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I just want to thank you for that book recommendation. I have recommended it to those who would be interested as well and will request it from my local independent book store (the fact that the publisher is HarperCollins leads me to believe that there is no DRM-free version of the ebook, which means I am withholding my money from any retailer who sells it with DRM unless none is applied).

That One Guy (profile) says:

If there's no penalty for failure there's no drive to improve

It’s hard to know how a takedown was issued for a single word.

Oh that one’s easy, there are no penalties for bogus DMCA claims therefore the least possible amount of effort is put into them and they are made as wide as possible to catch as many possible ‘infringing’ things as possible.

Anonymous Coward says:

Although not a DMCA/copyright issue per se, a similar situation has arisen in the realm of cultural appropriation. An indigenous American group claims that the term "spirit animal" is specific to their shamanic beliefs and that for anyone else to use the phrase in any other way is unacceptable cultural appropriation. Never mind the fact that it’s a common phrase that many different people have come up with independently, or that essentially the same concept exists in several other indigenous cultures throughout the world.

BernardoVerda (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Ummm… that’s how ‘culture’ works. Culture evolves, spreads, gets picked up and used by new people, gets adopted, then adapted, reworked, reinterpreted…

Notions around "owning" culture is like the notion of "owning" ideas — it ignores or even denies the fundamental nature of culture in the first place.

"Cultural appropriation" is a sign of, and direct consequence of, the strength and value and vigour of that cultural phenomenon. If your culture isn’t being "appropriated", you may not have an actual, viable ‘culture’ to begin with.

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