Chilling Effects On Chilling Effects As DMCA Archive Deletes Self From Google

from the transparency-never dept

Over the weekend, TorrentFreak noted that the website Chilling Effects had apparently removed itself from Google's search index after too many people complained.
This week, however, we were no longer able to do so. The Chilling Effects team decided to remove its entire domain from all search engines, including its homepage and other informational and educational resources.
TorrentFreak asked the site about it and was told it was done in search of "better balance."
“After much internal discussion the Chilling Effects project recently made the decision to remove the site’s notice pages from search engines,” Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland informs TF.

“Our recent relaunch of the site has brought it a lot more attention, and as a result, we’re currently thinking through ways to better balance making this information available for valuable study, research, and journalism, while still addressing the concerns of people whose information appears in the database.”

[....]

“As a project, we’ve always worked to strike that balance, for example by removing personally identifying information. Removing notice pages from search engine results is the latest step in that balancing process,” Holland tells us.

“It may or may not prove to be permanent, but for now it’s the step that makes the most sense as we continue to think things through,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Chilling Effects founder, Wendy Seltzer, seems to insist that this was an implementation mistake and that the team never meant to remove the whole domain:
So it's a little unclear what happened here. You'd think the folks at the Berkman Center and associated with Chilling Effects know how to properly set up a robots.txt file if they want to just exclude certain pages.

Either way it seems like a massive blow for transparency, and in many ways is a "chilling effect" of its own. It's no secret that many legacy copyright system supporters absolutely hate Chilling Effects and the transparency it brings. Sandra Aistars, of the Copyright Alliance, referred to the site as "repugnant" in Congressional testimony just a few months ago. Yes, providing transparency on censorship is "repugnant." Says a lot about the Copyright Alliance, doesn't it?

Others have made similar statements in the past. A few years ago, a lawyer tried to block Google from forwarding DMCA takedown notices to Chilling Effects, arguing that passing along those notices makes Google "potentially liable for the infringement" in passing on the notices. Others have argued that the takedown notices themselves are subject to copyright and have tried to block them from appearing on Chilling Effects.

The concern, they claim, is twofold: First, the details in the takedown notice often demonstrate where infringing content actually is. That's especially true for notices to Google or Twitter (two of the bigger suppliers of notices to Chilling Effects) who are not hosting the content, but are merely linking to it (i.e. they are "information location tools.") In those cases, the links may get removed from the services in question, but remain on the internet itself. The second concern, as put forth by Aistars, is that people issuing DMCA takedown notices are sensitive little flowers, and publishing the fact that they're trying to take down content opens them up to harassment and abuse.

Neither of these arguments survives much scrutiny. The idea that anyone is trawling through Chilling Effects seeking unauthorized content is fairly unlikely. And, really, if people are, those aren't exactly the kind of people who are then going to turn around and start willfully forking over cash to the legacy entertainment industry for that same content. The Chilling Effects haters, no doubt, would argue that this is why it's important to remove Chilling Effects itself from Google, because people searching on Google might not find the originals, but would then find the takedown notices with links back to the originals. Except, that seems unlikely. First, as has been detailed many times, people looking for unauthorized copies of works tend not to use Google that much, since it's not very good for that purpose, and other tools tend to be much more effective. Second, the kinds of information in a takedown notice itself aren't likely to trigger a high result for someone looking for an unauthorized download. Terms like "free" and "download" are unlikely to be found on such documents.

The other argument -- that being exposed for sending takedowns leads to harassment -- also seems bogus. We've seen little indication that people get that upset about legitimate takedowns. It's the excessive, abusive and censorious takedowns that really seem to concern people. And those are the ones that need transparency the most.

Hopefully, the folks at Chilling Effects rethink this decision and stick by their own stated philosophy of working "to provide as much transparency as possible" about DMCA takedown notices. It would seem that blocking a key search tool from accessing the data goes directly against that principle.

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  • icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:05am

    A feature, not a bug

    That's especially true for notices to Google or Twitter (two of the bigger suppliers of notices to Chilling Effects) who are not hosting the content, but are merely linking to it (i.e. they are "information location tools.") In those cases, the links may get removed from the services in question, but remain on the internet itself.


    That should encourage them to engage in the much more effective practice of targeting sites that are actually hosting infringing content rather than the awful practice of targeting search engines who have nothing to do with it and aren't violating the law.

    I count that as a feature, not a bug.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:18am

      Re: A feature, not a bug

      When your world view is that independent publication is the real problem, and piracy is just a cover for your actions, you target the search engines and the social media suites via which independent content is found and advertised. The number of notices being sent to Google for example is more harassment than a measured means of dealing with piracy. They are probably thinking that if they can put enough pressure on Google, they will end up with full control over what appears in the search results, and that will not include independent content.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        jupiterkansas (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re: A feature, not a bug

        One of the great things about Netflix is that while the Hollywood studios are reluctant to offer their movies there, independents seem more than happy, esp. foreign film distributors. All it does is lead me to watching more independent content. Netflix's selection of Asian films alone is enough to entertain me for a long time.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 1:02pm

      Re: A feature, not a bug

      The internet is accessible mostly for those who will content, not for those who doesn't. When it comes to infringing content you are likely dealing with content they cannot find because it is behind encryption-walls and the access to the distributor sites are made difficult to trace, making them difficult to find and even more so to pursue legally.

      By targetting the messenger they can at least justify their existance to the people they represent.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        John Fenderson (profile), 13 Jan 2015 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: A feature, not a bug

        Oh, yes, I understand that addressing the people who are actually breaking the law is more difficult. That's doesn't mean that harassing innocent third parties is justifiable, though. It is objectionable on two grounds: it is unethical (for what I hope are totally obvious reasons), and it is ineffective. So we have companies who are willing to harm innocent third parties in the name of convenience, even though their actions don't help anyone at all, not even themselves.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nigel, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:19am

    I am currently waiting on a notice to be visible to me there. I admin a forum for some folks that is currently pretty slow.

    I woke up one day over the holidays to find about 20 thousand spam posts from a manual login but they clearly released a bot once they did. Mostly links to watch crap online.

    Once I figured out how to mitgate the issue(which took all damn day with xenforo) I checked my email and noticed I got some ham-fisted bullshit not only in webmaster tools but from my host as well.

    A week later I still want to smack someone around about it.

    Slightly off topic I know but as I don't know who to bitch at yet I had to vent lol...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:23am

    What a catch 22 this one is. Send out a takedown because you have an infringement. But whatever you do, don't publish the takedown because someone might find that file. So tell me what the purpose of issuing a take down is again? Am I mistaken in that it goes bye bye from the site? If so, what's to find?

    Sounds to me they are just butt hurt because many times Chilling Effects calls note to the mistakes made and believe me there are plenty of them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:27am

    Really!

    These guys are just a bunch of "ChilliDOGs"!!! it seems.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Chris Brand, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:37am

    I'm picturing people using chilling effects to find free content

    "Ahh, here's a takedown notice for the movie I'm looking to stream, let's try that link. Nope, that wasn't the movie at all, just something with the same name. How about this one ? No, that's no good either. Dammit, why can't those copyright holders do a better job of identifying infringing content!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      DaveK (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 10:54pm

      Re: I'm picturing people using chilling effects to find free content

      I've actually done it occasionally, when I've been searching for something on google and found one of those chilling effects links at the foot of a page. It did take a fair bit of ploughing through dead, bogus and irrelevant links, and it's because there are generally easier ways of finding what I've been looking for that I haven't done it much, but on just a couple of occasions it has been very helpful.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    sophisticatedjanedoe (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:37am

    The Chilling Effects haters, no doubt, would argue that this is why it's important to remove Chilling Effects itself from Google, because people searching on Google might not find the originals, but would then find the takedown notices with links back to the originals.


    In the dark 1930s in Russia there was a concept of “smuggling under the cover of criticism.” No matter how you cursed at an ideological enemy (essentially everyone not singing panegyrics to the Leader), if you quoted him/her, you could be prosecuted and sent to a labor camp.

    I see the parallels here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    jameshogg (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 12:07pm

    Oh I see. Copyright holders wanting anonymity in civil courts.

    You know, because secret courts are totally liberal.

    Don't worry I'm sure that once that gets into swing NOBODY will be able to connect the dots and work out for themselves where and when takedowns are happening.

    "Wahhh Google and Youtube put sad faces in place of infringing videos when they are taken down" - yes, I have heard this attempt to restrict Google's freedom to express what they THINK about takedowns being uttered, too.

    And of course efforts to remove Chilling Effects instead of targeting the source of the piracy itself - the websites in question (which they won't do because they secretly feel that enforcing copyright is a doomed policy) will resemble the E.U. disastrous ruling on the right to be forgotten ("don't even TELL the sites you've taken down links!!!!") and will be met with inevitable Streisand Effects and total humiliation.

    It's almost as if they get masochistic pleasure out of making themselves look like clowns.

    Next thing they'll say is "nobody is even allowed to MENTION "The Pirate Bay" because if you do, that is the same as LINKING to it!!!". They'd be right, you know. Simply mentioning what a pirate website IS makes you a linker and morally liable for infringement.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 12:16pm

    So basically, ChillingEffects got nastygrams and wound up applying robots.txt to its homepage in response. A very chilling effect indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 12:31pm

    This is terrible. Chilling Effects was great for showing the long reach of IP giants.

    The battle for a free and open internet looks more bleak every day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 12:46pm

    being exposed for sending takedowns leads to harassment


    I'm sure Viacom has suffered greatly, and has had to seek counseling.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Mike Masnick just hates it when copyright law is enforced.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 4:48pm

      Re:

      antidirt just hates it when due process is enforced. DMCAed, bitch!

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        antidirt (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 8:17pm

        Re: Re:

        antidirt just hates it when due process is enforced. DMCAed, bitch!

        I'm flattered that you think of me so often, but that's not me you're replying to. I love it when copyright and due process are enforced. Preferably at the same time.

        That said, this post of Mike's is just stupid. Particularly, his ongoing personal attack of Aistars. Mike says:
        Sandra Aistars, of the Copyright Alliance, referred to the site as "repugnant" in Congressional testimony just a few months ago. Yes, providing transparency on censorship is "repugnant." Says a lot about the Copyright Alliance, doesn't it?
        That's not fair. She was making the point that gathering all the links that have been removed defeats the purpose of having the links removed. She wasn't talking about transparency. She wasn't saying that providing transparency is repugnant. Give me a break. It actually "says a lot about" Mike that he has to be so hyperbolic all of the time. The transparency argument is a good one, but so is Aistars' argument about gathering links. There's no need to pretend like she was talking about one thing when she was in fact talking about another. It's just childish, bordering on delusional, for Mike to pretend otherwise. Sadly, such nonsense is Mike's stock-in-trade.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 8:47pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          "She was making the point that gathering all the links that have been removed defeats the purpose of having the links removed."

          I don't know what goes on in your stupid little head sometimes, the best explanation I can think of is that you're probably on drugs, but that's not what she was saying. Here, let me quote what she said.

          "The activities of chillingeffects.org are repugnant to the purposes of Section 512. Data collected by high-volume recipients of DMCA notices such as Google, and senders of DMCA notices such as trade associations representing the film and music industries demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices sent are legitimate, yet the site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 as proponents of censorship."

          https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20140317/11355726599/copyright-alliance-attacks-chilli ng-effects-clearinghouse-argues-dmca-system-with-no-public-accountability.shtml

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:37pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Then again, knowing you you'll probably come up with some crazy nonsense like what she said could be interpreted in a number of ways and that you interpret it differently than how any normal person would interpret it. Am I right antidirt. Is that going to be your response?

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 3:20am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              How about this. Since some of antidirt's arguments rest on the claim that anything can be reinterpreted to mean anything else I will interpret what antidirt says to mean that he is an IP abolitionist who supports Techdirt, Chilling effects, the EFF and is, in fact, criticizing Sandra and supporting the OP in his posts.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 10:46pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Do you seriously think you're fooling everyone when you log out and post on your wife's laptop to give yourself pats on the back and handjobs while acting like it's the most intellectual achievement humanly possible?

          Hell, just do a search. Chicken noises all around the site. Way to make an argument - but then that was never your objective.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 11:43pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Have another citation, maximalist.

          "Love it when due process is enforced", my foot.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I am not a pirate, 12 Jan 2015 @ 2:08pm

    Google is still showing links to Chilling Effects in cases where a search turns up deleted links. A search for "The Interview" and "download" revealed the following:

    https://www.chillingeffects.org/notices/10282441

    ... which includes, among other things, links to IMDB and official Facebook pages for Spider-Man 2 and The Interview. That's why linking to Chilling Effects is so important: it exposes bogus DMCA claims by copyright holders who unfortunately are not held accountable for negligent and indiscriminate, automated takedowns.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 3:15pm

    Hydra Effects

    Chilling Effects is getting hit because it's an obvious target. The one and only site that exists to prove that the **AAs are spamming garbage takedown notices because they can and don't care about collateral damage.

    Why is there only one site? There should be at least 3. Hopefully soon; every time anyone gives the **AAs an inch, they take a mile. It'll only be a matter of weeks, if not days, before they start banging the "you are not doing enough to fight piracy and are therefore responsible for piracy" drum again to get Chilling Effects to censor itself even further.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    antidirt (profile), 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:25pm

    I don't know what goes on in your stupid little head sometimes, the best explanation I can think of is that you're probably on drugs, but that's not what she was saying. Here, let me quote what she said.

    "The activities of chillingeffects.org are repugnant to the purposes of Section 512. Data collected by high-volume recipients of DMCA notices such as Google, and senders of DMCA notices such as trade associations representing the film and music industries demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices sent are legitimate, yet the site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 as proponents of censorship."


    I'll note first that you do not deny that Aistars did not say that "providing transparency" is "repugnant," as her remarks are now being framed. That claim is sensationalist nonsense.

    If you're going to quote what she wrote, you should provide more than two sentences:
    From these examples it is clear that the volume of infringement individual authors and small businesses must manage online is having a chilling effect on artistic expression. To make matters worse, many recipients of takedown notices, supported by organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation, attempt to intimidate and bully those artists who do stand up for their rights. The site Chillingeffects.org, for example, bills itself as a “clearinghouse” for DMCA notices. It publishes notices forwarded to the site by recipients such as Google, leaving intact information that directs readers to the infringing URLs. Until recently the site also publicized the names and personal information of any artist sending a notice to seek the removal of an infringing URL.

    The activities of chillingeffects.org are repugnant to the purposes of Section 512. Data collected by high-volume recipients of DMCA notices such as Google, and senders of DMCA notices such as trade associations representing the film and music industries demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices sent are legitimate [footnote 12], yet the site unfairly maligns artists and creators using the legal process created by Section 512 as proponents of censorship. Moreover, by publishing the personal contact information of the creators sending notices (a practice which Chilling Effects only recently discontinued), it subjects creators to harassment and personal attacks for seeking to exercise their legal rights. Finally, because the site does not redact information about the infringing URLs identified in the notices, it has effectively become the largest repository of URLs hosting infringing content on the internet.

    [footnote 12] MPAA, for example, reports that its companies sent a total of 25,235,151 notices regarding infringing URLs to site operators and search engines in the time period between March 2013 and August 2013. In response, they received a grand total of 8 counternotices. Bruce Boyden,The Failure of the DMCA Notice and Takedown System: A Twentieth Century Solution to a Twenty-First Century Problem, December 2013, available at http://cpip.gmu.edu/2013/12/05/the-failure-of-the-dmca-notice-and-takedown-system-2/.
    The "activities of chilling effects.org" that she said were "repugnant" were that of gathering links, providing personal information, and maligning creators as "proponents of censorship." She was talking about legitimate notices, which she noted account for the "overwhelming majority" of notices sent. (You left out the footnote to Prof. Boyden's paper.) But what she did not say was that transparency itself is repugnant.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 9:41pm

      Re:

      "many recipients of takedown notices, supported by organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation"

      The EFF focuses on bogus takedown notices. If a takedown recipient is being supported by the EFF it's most likely because the EFF is trying to defend someone on the receiving end of a bogus takedown notice that doesn't have the resources to defend themselves in the face of a relatively large opponent and a one sided legal and penalty structure stacked against them.

      That she would criticize the EFF, who mostly focuses on defending against bogus takedowns, is a strong indication of her real intent. It's to allow for legitimate content to be taken down without resistance.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 12 Jan 2015 @ 11:37pm

      Re:

      What utter bollocks. that data is publically recoreded, and as such, has no expectation of privacy.

      She ius claiming that Google sending those noticves to an archive is a repugnant activity. And claiming that publishing DMCA notices is censorship? Kettle, meet obsidian pot.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 13 Jan 2015 @ 3:43am

      Re:

      Finally, because the site does not redact information about the infringing URLs identified in the notices, it has effectively become the largest repository of URLs hosting infringing content on the internet.



      So sending google a notice does fuck all as the content is still up right?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 14 Jan 2015 @ 9:23am

      Re:

      "Data collected by high-volume recipients of DMCA notices such as Google, and senders of DMCA notices such as trade associations representing the film and music industries demonstrate that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices sent are legitimate"

      This is a misrepresentation of what Google has said about the takedown notices. What they've said is that the overwhelming majority of DMCA notices are properly filed and not contested.

      That's a far cry from saying that they're legitimate.

      "Finally, because the site does not redact information about the infringing URLs identified in the notices, it has effectively become the largest repository of URLs hosting infringing content on the internet."

      This argument is ridiculous (even if it is accurate, which is possible but seems unlikely). My response is "so what?" If there is such great concern about this, then copyright holders can do what they should have been doing instead of bothering innocent third parties: go after the sites themselves. Then it wouldn't matter one bit of the URLs are publicly available.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Abrete libro admin, 9 Oct 2015 @ 2:31pm

    Zealots

    We have been the victim of such a notice recently. We even have a good relation with the communications people of the company (Penguin Random House Mondadori Spain) that sent the take down from results notice and they've tried to mediate with the guys so they at least look at the content of the url they've claimed had DMCA infringment content. To no avail.

    One of our users complained in their Facebook account and their community manager ended his not too nice answer with a Peace and love for books that hasn't been well received by people reading it.

    Result: their press notes on book releases are not going to be released in our website and the same goes for information about new books. We might lose one or two dollars in advertisements, they are already losing more than that in people who will not be buying any books from them plus the bad publicity from their community manager reply.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    not gone..need china, 2 Nov 2015 @ 8:43pm

    Actually the objectionable content is still there.

    On a different domain. Example https://www.lumendatabase.org/notices/111143

    To solve this problem China must become the gatekeeper of internets. Only China at no. 88 in Freedom House can do it if anybody can do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    uaredisturbed, 25 Mar 2016 @ 12:27am

    Info on "ChillingEffects/Lumen"

    If you google a known material that you know Google has removed a few links from their search engine, you can look for the "In response to a complaint..." bullshit at the bottom of the page and it gives you a link and tells you were to find it. Right now Chilling Effects has officially undergone a name change and is now Lumen Databases. If you would like to leave hate mail for said site, you can go to and get the email, fax # or the address to do so. I hope to have enlightened you just a little.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lisa Blonde, 29 Aug 2016 @ 7:23am

    Remove sender name from Lumen database

    Hey!

    I want to ask you to delete sender name (only just the name) from lumen database on my DMCA (Copyright) Complaint to Google report.
    We can do this?

    Thanks,
    Lisa

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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