Qualcomm Uses DMCA To Shut Down Its Own GitHub Repository (Plus A Bunch Of Others)

from the because-copyright! dept

Another day, another story of ridiculously errant DMCA takedown notices. The latest involves Qualcomm hiring Cyveillance to issue a DMCA notice to Github, demanding the site take down 116 repositories for allegedly violating Qualcomm's copyright. Of course, among those repositories are... Qualcomm's own repository. Because, apparently, like many other companies out there that do DMCA takedown notices, Cyveillance doesn't much care about collateral damage, and issues overly broad takedown notices because it can, and because there's simply no penalty for doing so. The takedown also impacted CyanogenMod developers and Sony's own Xperia dev Github repository. Because if you're going to create collateral damage, why not try to hit everyone?
The impetus behind the takedown request is a WiFi config file – literally a text file – which is taken straight from a Sony firmware release. In this takedown Qualcomm also took down PRIMA mirror which is open source code for Atheros wireless chipsets that they release on the CodeAurora gitweb site.
The article at Ausdroid also points out that Qualcomm has been trying to create "better relations with the open-source community for sometime." I would imagine one way to do that would be to not pull down their GitHub repositories with bogus DMCA claims. But, of course, Qualcomm has long been known as a patent and copyright bully, so apparently old habits die hard.

Reader Comments (rss)

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    Ninja (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 7:03am

    and issues overly broad takedown notices because it can, and because there's simply no penalty for doing so

    It's a wonder. If you falsely accuse somebody of something you get your ass sued for it. Companies can't simply take your possessions because they claim you haven't paid, they have to prove it. The Govt can't take down your business (usually) because they think something is illegal inside, they have to prove (usually). Why is copyright be different?

     

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    Michael Manry (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 7:49am

    Qualcomm is reversing

    A Qualcomm representative stated:
    "Since issuing these requests, we have been advised that at least one of these files may, in fact, not be Qualcomm Confidential. At this time, Qualcomm is retracting all of those DMCA take-down requests, and will be either reviewing such files further for possible approval for posting, or reaching out collaboratively to the project maintainers for assistance in addressing any remaining concerns. To those project maintainers who received these DMCA notices, we apologize for the approach taken."
    http://www.androidpolice.com/2014/07/05/qualcomm-backtracks-after-issuing-dmca-takedown-notic es-for-116-github-repos-including-some-belonging-to-cyanogen-sony-and-qualcomm/

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:34am

      Re: Qualcomm is reversing

      IOW: "Oops, I guess that was pretty douchey of us, maybe we should do it properly now."

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:52am

      Re: Qualcomm is reversing

      "To those project maintainers who received these DMCA notices, we apologize for the approach taken."
      Qualcomm seems to have forgotten to add "and we promise to appropriately compensate the affected parties for the damage we caused through our gross negligence in this matter."

       

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      DannyB (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:56am

      Re: Qualcomm is reversing

      When a corporation thinks someone has a text configuration file that might, somehow, be their property, it's a major emergency, in need of sooper dooper emergency DMCA powers!

      If said corporation uses said nuclear weapon on many targets, and then realized it was a mistake. It's just an Ooops, sorry.

       

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      Ninja (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 9:24am

      Re: Qualcomm is reversing

      No punishment issued. Expect more "errors".

      Still, if it was indeed an honest mistake it spells incompetence all over it. Dunno which is worse.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 9:51am

        Re: Re: Qualcomm is reversing

        At the very least, the "punishment" was bad PR for Qualcomm, so in a way they've received their public punishment and shaming. Whether that matters to them or not is a different matter.

         

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      John85851, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 11:50am

      Re: Qualcomm is reversing

      I would be better if they continued with:
      "And we will be firing those people responsible for issuing the false takedowns and we beg you not to take your business elsewhere."

      But why should they? A simple "Oops, our bad" is all companies do when this happens.

       

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    Roger Strong (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:07am

    This sounds familiar...

    Because if you're going to create collateral damage, why not try to hit everyone? [...] Qualcomm has been trying to create "better relations with the open-source community for sometime."

    It's the Dick Cheney method of creating better relations. "Shock and awe" bombing in the major population centers, lots of collateral damage, and then expect the population to greet you as liberators.

    Watch for Qualcomm and Cyveillance to dismiss this as a hunting accident.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:08am

    "latest involves Qualcomm hiring Cyveillance to issue a DMCA notice to Github, demanding the site take down [...] Qualcomm's own repository."

    Maybe one lesson might be to do your own dirty work in future. Perhaps a Qualcomm employee might have noticed s/he was demanding a take down of their very own repository.

     

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      PaulT (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:28am

      Re:

      Unlikely. As things are, they don't just save paying their own staff, but they get to deflect blame when things go wrong. Even if the perjury provisions within the DMCA are actually applied for once, they might be able to get round it by saying that it was Cyveillance rather than Qualcomm who agreed to that clause.

      The only way around this is for those who issue false takedown notices to face real punishment, especially in cases where they're clearly just spamming without checking what they're asking to be taking down (as in this case). They'll only behave themselves when they're held accountable. Sadly, that either requires a major change in the law, or the results of a major lawsuit that will probably take years to complete. Not holding my breath for either of those in the near future.

       

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        DogBreath, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 9:14am

        Re: Re:

        The only way around this is for those who issue false takedown notices to face real punishment, especially in cases where they're clearly just spamming without checking what they're asking to be taking down (as in this case).

        Have some well meaning congress critter add on an unknown amendment, because they didn't read it (we all know," we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it"), making a single word change in the DMCA takedown requirements (late at night, before a holiday weekend major sporting event, natural disaster or country invasion), turning "under penalty of perjury" to "under penalty of death". Then have the government carry out a few of the sentences (in Texas, so it will be done in a timely manner), while saying, "Sorry, sorry", and that is how to do it.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 9:31pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Nah, these companies won't care about losing a few staff.

          Punishment for issuing a bogus DMCA notice, including a notice which is successfully appealed under fair use claims, should be a mandatory loss of the copyright to the public domain, plus a small fine to assist funding a registry of known public domain works.

          Then these companies will care what their outsourcing partners are doing on their behalf!

           

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            That One Guy (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 10:31pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            For added humor value, and since they seem to like them so much, use a 'Strikes' system.

            Strike one: The ones who filed the DMCA claim pay any fees or costs caused by the false takedown. Anyone can make mistakes, so this is to deal with that.

            Strike two: The ones who filed the DMCA claim pay any fees or costs caused by the false takedown. Additionally, no DMCA claims may be made by the copyright owner, or any company they hire or employ, for a period of one month.

            Strike three: The copyright in question is immediately revoked, and placed into the public domain. In addition, the copyright owner, or any company they hire or employ, may not file a DMCA claim for a period of six months.

            If a company can go for one full year without getting a 'strike', the next strike they would incur starts at the lowest level, 'Strike one'.

            If however they incur further strikes within a year of their last one, after having reached the third strike on a different copyright, they are punished as though they had received another 'Strike three', and the copyright in question is revoked.

             

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              DogBreath, Jul 8th, 2014 @ 9:50am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Lets include the same statutory damages for filing false DMCA claims and takedown, as statutory damages for copyright infringement, and I believe we have a deal.

              Maybe the fear of being held civilly and monetarily liable will make them double and triple check, before randomly shooting off their DMCA mouths.

               

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                That One Guy (profile), Jul 8th, 2014 @ 12:49pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Nah, all you'd need to do is to enforce the perjury penalties for filing a false DMCA claim, those come with prison time, and if they knew that filing an obviously false claim would get them behind bars for a year or two, I think they'd be a lot more careful to check before filing.

                 

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                  DogBreath, Jul 8th, 2014 @ 8:10pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Companies do not care about prison time (especially since they can just get another warm unsuspecting body to sign on the "under penalty of perjury line"), because you can't send a company to prison, but they do care about money.

                  It is their bottom line they're worried about, not the part-time (because it doesn't take 40 hours a week to sign on the dotted line) employee. The way they see it, why waste perfectly good money on a hiring a full-time employee, with health care, 401K benefits and a company parking space, who is going to end up in prison for perjury anyway? It is only the bottom line they are concerned with, and that bottom line is and always will be: M-O-N-E-Y.

                  As long as they can keep making money, even if their company is ground into the dirt through the court system (and they subsequently start up a new one doing the same old song and dance), they don't care.

                  Take their money and make it hurt, put them out in the cold and take their shirt.

                   

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 8:23am

    The Witch hunters of old would be proud that their practices are still being used and perfected.

     

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    WysiWyg (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 11:39am

    I can't wait for the day when these companies finds out how "whitelisting" works.

     

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    John Snape, Jul 7th, 2014 @ 12:31pm

    Every time a company makes a mistake like this, the errorists win.

     

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    That One Guy (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 1:40pm

    Give them what they ask for, just not what they want

    Every time a company outsources their DMCA 'duties', with the almost inevitable affect that the company's own site gets included in the takedown list, the one receiving the list should do exactly as asked, and de-list/remove the site in question.

    HBO hires a company who lists HBO.com as infringing? Well, obviously they'd know best, de-list it.

    Company targets it's own programming repository like this? Well, if they really want it removed, better pull it right away.

    Basically any company targeting their own stuff/sites, either directly or via a third party, should have those parts of the DMCA claims taken at face value, with scrutiny only applied to the grey area stuff, where it's not as clear.

     

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    Coyne Tibbets (profile), Jul 7th, 2014 @ 4:10pm

    I've been waiting for one of these DMCA-happy RIAA members to shut down its own sales site. ("That site is selling all kinds of copyrighted music! Kill it!")

    Not quite there yet, but it'll happen. Wait for it...

     

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    Eldakka (profile), Jul 9th, 2014 @ 8:17pm

    Perjury?

    IANAL, but my understanding is that DMCA takedown notices are issued under "penalty of perjury". I.e. it's a affidavit/stat dec.

    I thought there were penalties for false statements made under "penalty of perjury". So while there is no specific penalty for issuing a false/wrong DMCA notice, surely the damaged parties could fall back on using making false statements under penalty of perjury complaints against the issuer?

    I thought one of the 'canned' statements in the DMCA takedown was something along the lines of "I declare under penalty of perjury that the requested takedown material breaches copyrights".

    Therefore when it is used to takedown trademarked material, they have outright lied on signing their name to the DMCA notice. They have perjured themselves.

    I think an argument could also be made for perjury when the issuer issues a takedown for copyrights they don't own or that don't exist. Surely there is a duty of care when swearing under penalty of perjury that at least a valid copyright exists, otherwise on what basis is the belief that a copyright is being infringed made on?

    Again, IANAL, but surely even if there are no specific penalties for issuing a false DMCA notice, there are penalties for perjury that could be applied?

     

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      The Wanderer (profile), Jul 20th, 2014 @ 4:56pm

      Re: Perjury?

      If I recall and understand matters correctly, the only "under penalty of perjury" part is the statement certifying that the person filing the DMCA takedown request either is the copyright holder for the work they're issuing the claim under, or is acting on behalf of the same.

      There are no apparent penalties in the law for making a false statement about the rest of it - including, again IIRC, the claim that the work at the identified location infringes on the copyright in question. You do have to certify that you have a "good faith belief" that some parts of it are true, but that's a very different thing from certifying that those parts are true, and virtually impossible to disprove.

       

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