TorrentFreak Continues To Get DMCA Takedown Notices Despite Not Hosting Infringing Material

from the this-is-not-the-way dept

It’s no secret that TorrentFreak, a mainstay news site covering copyright and filesharing issues, gets more than its fair share of errant DMCA takedowns and other wayward scrutiny. This is almost certainly a function of the site’s chosen name, though the sheer volume of mistaken targeting of the site also serves as a useful beacon for just how bad policing copyright has become. If you can’t get past a news site having the word “torrent” in its name, then we should probably all admit we’re operating at a very silly level of IP enforcement.

And yet it keeps happening. Most recently, TorrentFreak reported on a request made to Google to delist a post the site did on how popular The Mandalorian was with pirates.

Every week we see obvious errors, where sites such as IMDb, Wikipedia, Justice.gov, and NASA are targeted. By now we ignore most of these mistakes but in some instances, we take them personally. That’s also the case for a DMCA takedown request Google received a few days ago. This notice claims to identify several problematic URLs that allegedly infringe the copyrights of Disney’s hit series The Mandalorian.

This is not unexpected, as The Mandalorian was the most pirated TV show of last year, as we reported in late December. However, we didn’t expect to see our article as one of the targeted links in the notice. Apparently, the news that The Mandalorian is widely pirated – which was repeated by dozens of other publications – is seen as copyright infringement? Needless to say, we wholeheartedly disagree. This is not the way.

A couple of things we should absolutely point out. First, at the time of this post being written, Google has not delisted the post from search results. Also, and this genuinely surprised me, Disney was not the the party requesting the post be delisted, despite the show being a flagship on Disney+. Instead, the requesting entity is something called GFM Film. TorrentFreak was unable to pin down precisely who that company is or where it’s from, as there looks to be several potential candidates found via web search.

All of which is only really interesting in terms of finding out who is responsible for this screw up. Because, again, TorrentFreak is a news site that does not host a single bit of infringing digital material. The policing of copyright is full of this sort of collateral damage and that doesn’t seem to be a problem anyone seriously wants to tackle.

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Comments on “TorrentFreak Continues To Get DMCA Takedown Notices Despite Not Hosting Infringing Material”

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27 Comments
This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

I’m willing to bet that these do happen a lot more often, it’s just that only the most blatant errors are reported on like this.

References to potentially infringing material get taken down all the time, despite the lack of any text in the DMCA to support this. A .torrent file, for example, is just metadata—hashes and information about who can provide the corresponding data. The same goes for search engine results—no law says a search engine can’t provide information about certain copyrighted metal, but results get removed via takedown notices all the same.

Remember phone books? I never heard of listings being removed because someone was involved in a crime (or just accused of one). If you knew the name of a DVD bootlegger, you could look them up and call them.

TorrentFreak provides information about potentially infringing material, and about where such material is located, much as .torrent files and search engines do. On what basis should they be treated differently?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

TorrentFreak provides information about potentially infringing material, and about where such material is located, much as .torrent files and search engines do.

I can’t help but question if you’ve ever visited the site, or even know what content it hosts?

This comment has been deemed insightful by the community.
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

Sooo.. you are arguing that talking about other people torrenting is copyright infringment?

Here’s a hint: torrenting is not copyright infringment.
Torrenting a moving isn’t copyright infrigment.

Torrenting a movie whos copyright license prohibits redistribution might be copyright infringment (but there are tons of details that matter).

Finally listing the fact that people torrented a video, without even linking to where they torrented it from isn’t copyright infringment.

Unless you want to claim that you just commited copyright infringment (both by copying from TF’s site AND by giving information that people are torrenting).

So sadly I am compelled to call you wrong.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is fre

Sooo.. you are arguing that talking about other people torrenting is copyright infringment?

No, I don’t believe it is. But I also don’t believe it’s copyright infringement to share a .torrent file that refers to copyrighted material (for which no general redistribution rights have been granted) or link to a web page where it can be downloaded. Neither the .torrent nor the link would contain anything copyrightable. So where do we draw the line? Why should Google, on receipt of a DMCA notice, remove a link to a .torrent file? Why should the hoster of a .torrent file remove it? If the DMCA applies to those cases, why wouldn’t it apply to English text referencing the movies and the sites?

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

Re: Re: Re:2 Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

"Top 10 Most Torrented Movies of The Week"

OK, here’s a challenge for you – how does a list of most torrented movies tell you where to get them?

"Top 10 Most Popular Torrent Sites of 2021"

If I see an article about the cities with the biggest drug problems, that doesn’t mean that the article is telling me where is best to buy drugs.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

"I can’t help but question if you’ve ever visited the site, or even know what content it hosts?"

Yeah. All legal content. The same way a chemistry journal is legal, or crime novels describing or detailing the how-tos of criminal activities aren’t themselves criminal.

Did you have any argument which wouldn’t make Tom Clancy and Stephen King criminals over their writing? Or any investigative pulitzer-prize winning journalist?

Yeah, torrentfreak is completely legal. Torrents are completely legal. Using the knowledge, finding a suitable torrent, using it as identifier, and going online to download the file the hashsum of the torrent matches…that may be unlawful. In some jurisdictions.

Copyright maximalists are telling everyone the drawing of a gun is the equivalent of a school shooting. And they’ve repeated that lie so often even people who ought to know better have made that link.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

References to potentially infringing material get taken down all the time, despite the lack of any text in the DMCA to support this. A .torrent file, for example, is just metadata—hashes and information about who can provide the corresponding data. The same goes for search engine results—no law says a search engine can’t provide information about certain copyrighted metal, but results get removed via takedown notices all the same.

Not sure what point you thought you were making there but all you really did was point to examples of actions that shouldn’t be going on and should be shut down as being outside the law. If the law says that DMCA claims are for copyright infringement then issuing one because someone talked about copyright infringement is a clear abuse of the law.

TorrentFreak provides information about potentially infringing material, and about where such material is located, much as .torrent files and search engines do. On what basis should they be treated differently?

Other than the fact that talking about copyright infringement isn’t copyright infringement, anymore than talking about the fact that people shoplift isn’t shoplifting?

This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it.

tp (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

Other than the fact that talking about copyright infringement isn’t copyright infringement,

At what point does it become illegal?
1) talking about copyright infringement
2) talking about copyright infringement and providing written instructions mixed to the talk where to find pirated material
3) giving a list of piracy related URL links to your friend
4) using torrent client and downloading copyrighted material based on torrent files
5) running a torrent site
6) being among the most notorious piracy sites with millions of users
7) getting sued by RIAA/MPAA for copyright infringement
8) overtaking country’s police force with sheer force of the masses
9) rioting in country’s capital and overtaking the government
10) contacting your lawyer and asking for permission to commit copyright infringement and then not following lawyer’s advice

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Accuracy costs effort, sloppiness is free

"At what point does it become illegal?"

Point 8.

Up until that point there may be some unlawful activity going on, depending on jurisdiction, but just like every other copyright maximalist you keep conflating penal code with civil code of law.

But yes, we can discuss any amount of unlawful activity in all aspects, in intimate and clarifying detail. Were it otherwise sites like Torrentfreak would be in trouble.

As would a great many journalists and authors.

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

Re: Re: All due to lack of penalty

Most of the problems surrounding copyright are that it’s been amended to the point of uselessness for its stated goal, and it’s regularly abused by bad actors who face zero consequences for doing so. Rewriting it to reinstate its actual purpose while placing penalties on those who abuse it makes a lot of sense.

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

Re: Re: Re:2 All due to lack of penalty

The perjury law as written is basically useless, partly because it’s never enforced and partly because it’s not really applicable to the bots which issue most of the abusive false claims.

Changing the law so that it both has actual teeth and applies to the methods of abuse would go a long way, on top of rewriting the copyright rules themselves so that they act effectively as something other than a pension scheme for corporations.

Scary Devil Monastery (profile) says:

Re: Re: All due to lack of penalty

"If the law not being followed is what’s causing the problem why would changing the law fix that?"

Because the law is written in a way which does not sanction abuse.

Imagine if there was no criminal sanction on falsely reporting crimes, making SWATting someone an activity without any legal repercussions…

Anonymous Coward says:

Apparently we’re "OK" with actual police "taking down" innocent real world people, from life.

So it kind of makes sense that there wouldn’t be much caring if "not actual police" take down digital information, especially since it’s non-tangible.

(* by "OK" and "much caring" I mean things like: congress didn’t promptly pass a law banning any of the more egregious insanities. Not that there were not significant amounts of humans who care.)

Annonymouse says:

Re: Re:

Well a good example of the state of the public at large is when a baseball player was hailed as a hero because he pushed through the crowd to get to a kid hit with a baseball and carry them to the team’s medical team. First responders who are supposedly trained for any emergency the people around the kid, the medical staff themselves, all did nothing on their own to help in response.

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