from the fake-views dept
We’ve done more than our share of posts in the past about the problems within the DMCA takedown system as currently practiced. The reason for so many posts is in part due to the sheer number of problems with how this all works. For starters, when notices go out to search engines like Google to delist “problem” URLs, those notices are often times generated by automated systems that unsurprisingly result in a vast majority of notices targeting URLs that are non-infringing. As in, over 99% of those notices. And even once we get past the malpractice of using automation buckshot notices that result in an incredible amount of collateral damage, we then have to add the wide open avenues for fraud and abuse of the DMCA system. That type of fraud runs the gamut, from trolls merely trying to cause chaos for the fun of it to competitors of certain forms of content trying to hurt the competition. In the immortal words of former NFL coach John Fox: “It’s all a problem.”
And, on the fraud and abuse side, it’s such a problem that perfectly legit URLs can get delisted by Google due to a request from “The U.S. Copyright Office”, even though that office doesn’t make those sorts of requests.
Google has received several takedown notices that claim to come from the ‘U.S. Copyright Office’, requesting the search engine to remove ‘problematic’ URLs. The Government body, which is generally not involved in copyright enforcement, informs TorrentFreak that it has nothing to do with these notices. Unfortunately, Google didn’t immediately spot the imposter.
The Copyright Office is not supposed to take sides in these matters. So, we were quite surprised to see its name on several takedown notices that were sent to Google over the past few days.
The takedown requests are not typical ‘Section 512’ notices. Instead, they point out sites that circumvent technical protection measures, which is in violation of the DMCA’s ‘Section 1201.’ That’s also how Google processed them.
And process at least some of them, Google did. The notices claiming to be from the Copyright Office indicated they were sent on behalf of the Video Industry Association of America, which doesn’t appear to exist based on a Google search I performed. Even if it does, the Copyright Office is not a party to these sorts of takedown requests on behalf of any organization. The URLs targeted appear to be mostly related to stream-ripping sites, but not just sites that offer that service. Instead, some of the URLs targeted merely mention sites that offer stream-ripping services, which is how several TorrentFreak posts got targeted.
Whoever is doing this, it is most certainly not the Copyright Office.
This suspicion was confirmed by the U.S. Copyright Office. A spokesperson informs TorrentFreak that the notices in question were not submitted by them.
This doesn’t mean that the takedown requests were ignored by Google. While our links are still indexed, several of the URLs listed in the notices have indeed been removed because of the notices, which is a problem.
It’s a huge problem, actually. In fact, it demonstrates quite well how broken the current DMCA system has become. The fact that this sort of impersonation is so easy is an issue. The fact that Google is so inundated with these types of requests, which again are overwhelmingly illegitimate, that it cannot review them thoroughly enough to notice the clear impersonation of the Copyright Office at work here is another issue. And the fact that the DMCA process is obviously viewed by some bad actors as a wide open tool to attack their own competition is yet another issue.
And, notably, there isn’t even an appeal process for Section 1201 takedown requests.
Unfortunately, there is no counter-notification option for ‘Section 1201’ takedown notices. This means that sites and services that are affected by these bogus notices have no official appeal process they can use.
But perhaps the U.S. Copyright Office can help with that?
Or maybe someone can just pretend to be the Copyright Office and help. You know, on its “behalf.” It works for the bad actors, after all.