Total Wipes Blames Trying To Take Down Every Page With The Word 'Download' On 'A Bug'

from the no-doubts-about-it dept

So, we just had a story about German-based Total Wipes issuing a series of increasingly bizarre takedown notices, including one that tried to claim that basically any website with the URL "download" was infringing (including the URLs of tons of popular software, from Skype to Open Office to Evernote). The company has now responded to the takedowns, insisting that it's all no big deal because it was all just a software bug. "No doubts about it," the company says:
Due to several technical servers problems on the first February week (from the 2nd to the 8th) our script sent hundreds DMCA to hundreds domains not related at all with any copyrights of our contents. Taking a look at https://www.chillingeffects.org/notices/10420406 is pretty clear that for a few hours only the word "download" has been used by the script and that caused several illegal and wrong DMCA requests. It was our fault, no doubts about it. The DMCA is a serious issue and it must be carefully managed. Google rejected most of these DMCA but we totally understand the damage of it for small and medium companies that have to remove and manage them manually. It was a bug just on that week and this is not our daily routine, 99% of our found/removed links are about people that steal music and make moneys illegally. However, our Anti-piracy system has been taken down a week ago in order to add more improvements and avoiding further trouble about the DMCA sending.
Of course, that would be slightly more plausible if Total Wipes hadn't done something similar just a few months ago, trying to take down every URL with the word "coffee" in it. Given that, the "it's just a bug" excuse doesn't seem particularly believable.

However, even if we take Total Wipes at its word, that this is not the company's "daily routine," this still demonstrates how problematic any system for automatically issuing takedowns is for concepts such as free speech. If you're issuing DMCA takedowns you are, by default, stifling speech. You can argue that it's acceptable if that "speech" is nothing more than infringing on someone else's work -- and there's a reasonable argument to be made there. But it is immensely problematic when you combine the default "take this down!" nature of the DMCA with the automated efforts to issue such notices. It becomes not a tool to stop infringement, but rather a widespread tool of censorship, thanks to a broken copyright law.

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  1. identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 24 Feb 2015 @ 9:54am

    Why so skeptical, Mike? The takedowns were clearly a result of a bug. Total Wipes is run and staffed by cockroaches, right?

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

  2. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 9:56am

    Having this happen once is just a bug. I could totally believe that. But as a developer, having it continually happen in production for an entire week without anyone noticing is much more than "just" a bug.

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

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

    If take downs are automated by just using keywords, and no human looks at the links, there will always be take-downs of pages that are non-infringing, and often of unrelated materials. That may not do much damage if a large company is affected, as they can usually gain the attention of Google or other service providers to rectify the situation, however the individual or small company is unlikely to have much luck trying to rectify mistakes, as Google, and other service providers do not have the man power to deal with all queries and complaints.

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

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:02am

    Oh no, a bug in my automated cannot-be-held-responsible script is going to file DMCA notices against all of Total Wipes's websites. How horrible!

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

  5. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:06am

    Re:

    "Having this happen once is just a bug. I could totally believe that."

    Me too, but (taking their "this is just a bug" statement at face value) that such an obvious and easy-to-spot bug made it past their quality control systems indicates a catastrophic failure by the company. One that they can't just wave off as "only a bug". This is a systemic failure that should be causing everyone at the company to be running around like their hair was on fire.

    Unless, of course, it was intentional.

    (they do internal code reviews and appropriate testing prior to release, right? Right? Apparently not.)

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

  6. icon
    Jake (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:06am

    I agree with Mason. Being a developer also there should be meticulous steps when releasing software and when there are major bugs that exist they are typically reported immediately. This is a severe (high level) bug that should have been addressed directly … is seems suspicious.

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

  7. identicon
    David, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:08am

    A bug. Sure.

    So suddenly a bug creeps into their software that looks at download URLs and puts out notices based only on the URL name. And that's totally a bug since their software does not look for clues in the URL but instead analyzes all of the content to make sure that it contains sizable amounts of original data.

    Quite the bug. To me it sounds not as much like some bug has stopped their program from working properly, but rather that some bug has been writing their program in the first place.

    Perhaps they should stop hiring invertebrates apart from the periplanetae americanae in top management.

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

  8. identicon
    Nyarlathotep, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:13am

    A bug causing this makes total sense - if it was one of those Ceti Alpha V mind-numbing bugs from The Wrath of Khan.

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

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:15am

    Just impose heavy automated fines for every unrelated and incorrect URL listed in a takedown. The bugs would disappear rather quickly.

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

  10. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:18am

    And this is why the lack of a penalty for screwing up like this makes the system useless.
    They have no reason to be better.
    They can always claim big/oopsie/dog ate my code if someone actually notices... in the meantime all sorts people are having to deal with their pages gone and filing a counter notice (which is WAY more complex than sending a bogus claim) and hope that the don't double down on the bogus complaint (cause THAT never happens... like with a birdsong).

    If they had to pay a penalty for each bogus claim & then file notices to fix what they broke then it might get better. There honestly needs to be a 'crying wolf' clause in the DMCA. If you send X bogus claims, you get a timeout.

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:25am

    Re:

    and hope that the don't double down on the bogus complain

    Doubling down can be done by software, while looking at and making a decision takes a human...guess which is likely to be most popular for at least the first response to a counter notice.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:29am

    "Illegal"?

    Since the DMCA only applies to the US, isn't it totally legal for people in most parts of the world to issue whatever DMCA takedown notices they want?

    It seems to me that one of these days, someone's going to employ a large botnet (already illegal) to mass-issue takedowns on everything in existence. I think this would show up the idiocy of the current system, that more often than not trusts an unverified third party over a verified customer.

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

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:33am

    Re: Re:

    Why am I picturing a company with a CEO, a CFO, a PR Department, a Marketing Department, two dozen lawyers, and finally... one intern with copies of "Perl in a Nutshell" and "Regular Expressions for Dummies" sitting in a server closet doing all the programming?

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

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:34am

    the bug is Total Wipes trying to stop everyone from doing what it didn't like!

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:35am

    Penalties

    Clearly, the law needs to be amended to impose strict, statutory penalties for bogus takedowns, be they the product of malice, negligence, or lack of human involvement (a form of negligence, but let's be explicit about it). Punitive damages in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per bogus notice should make companies like Total Wipes think twice about issuing automated takedowns.

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

  16. icon
    TasMot (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:36am

    They don't mean it's a bug in the software, they mean it bugs them that it didn't work.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:38am

    Re: "Illegal"?

    A DDOS on the DMCA itself. I love it.

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

  18. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 10:57am

    Well, of course it's a bug. Is that really in doubt? The alternative is that they intentionally sent these notices, and that's not really plausible.

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:09am

    I thank god everyday there are no repercussions for mistakenly trying to damage businesses and besmirch reputations because...why aren't there any repercussions again?

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

  20. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:22am

    Re:

    "having it continually happen in production for an entire week without anyone noticing is much more than "just" a bug."

    My guess the "more than just a bug" is their way of working. I imagine it this way:
    Monday morning: min wage employe arrives to enter new search terms, coffee break, weekend.
    Back to work on next monday boss gets an email "Oops".

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

  21. icon
    pouar (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:29am

    Oh it's only a bug? Well in that case those DMCA notices are perfectly fine. Why are we even having this argument.

    /s obviously

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

  22. identicon
    Michael, 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:33am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I picture a toilet paper factory.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:34am

    Google

    How does Google deal with this? I'm kind of curious because Total Wipes uses a script. Does Google have to look at each of those DMCAs or do they have a script too? Could they just auto reject everything and blame it on their script?

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

  24. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 11:48am

    Re:

    There should definitely be a financial penalty. Every time. Just as long as there is a financial penalty for every case of infringement.

    Anyone want to take bets on Techdirt supporting that kind of equality?

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

  25. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 12:22pm

    Re: Re:

    People are already open to being shaken down on mere accusation of infringement, due to it being ruinously expensive to defend yourself in court, so that half is already taken care of.

    As such, sure, I'd love to see some equally ruinous penalties for those abusing the DMCA system like demonstrated here.

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

  26. icon
    John Fenderson (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 12:58pm

    Re:

    Is this sarcastic? Because it's totally plausible.

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

  27. icon
    LeeJS (profile), 24 Feb 2015 @ 1:21pm

    Incompetence

    There may or may not be a bug but either way this company is clearly irresponsible and incompetent. At what point do Google simply say "Enough. You can't be trusted to access the takedown API any longer" and pull the plug on them?

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

  28. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 1:41pm

    I would be my guess that they need to hire some one that actually knows about the computer and the internet. That is to say someone that can figure out how to query what they are actually supposed to be after and not a newly learned word such as 'DOWNLOAD'.

    Given this continual bug as they claim in the software sounds very akin to why the copyright trolls don't really want to reveal their 'trademarked' process to find infringers. Likely it works on the same level.

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

  29. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 1:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    At least in a toilet paper factory, the programming intern would have a proper roll...

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

  30. identicon
    David, 24 Feb 2015 @ 1:45pm

    Re:

    The script sent these notices, and it gets the death penalty for its perjury.

    Let's start the next instance.

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

  31. identicon
    RD, 24 Feb 2015 @ 2:01pm

    Oh, so it's OK then?

    I see. It was a "bug" that was just missed. So, thats ok then, right? I mean, if it was an accident or an oversight or a just "we didn't *really* mean it" then that is acceptable to all parties, an "opps, my bad, sorry" is all it takes to absolve them of any wrongdoing, right? They just tapdance their way back out of the situation and no harm, no foul, no consequences, correct?

    So why then isn't that same courtesy extended to the general public, or anyone who stands accused by people like this? Why do they get a pass when the book is thrown fully at Joe Public?

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

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Re:

    I doubt they really wanted to take down every link containing the word "download". That doesn't mean it's a bug, though. I find it most likely that their program is working exactly as intended but somebody entered the wrong keywords.

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

  33. identicon
    Zonker, 24 Feb 2015 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Google

    Exactly what I was thinking. If it is OK for a bug in Wipe's script to DMCA all "download" sites automatically with no penalty, then we should be able to program a responding script with a bug that denies all "DMCA" requests automatically with no penalty. But that would require the law to follow our constitutional principles of equality and due process.

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

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 4:49pm

    Re:

    That's based on the presumption that copyright holders aren't that dumb.

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

  35. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Feb 2015 @ 5:47pm

    Computers breaking the law

    "...has been used by the script and that caused several illegal and wrong DMCA requests."

    Barring the fact that a script was used to target content - which is another discussion in of itself - maybe now we'll find out what happens when a computer breaks the law without human intervention.

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

  36. identicon
    Anonymous, 24 Feb 2015 @ 6:14pm

    Total Wipes

    Why even accept a DMCA takedown from a foreign company?

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

  37. icon
    PaulT (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 12:32am

    Re:

    Sadly, I can believe it. There's no effective penalty for filing false notices, nobody ever goes to court over it, and the general feeling seems to be that the DMCA perjury clause won't be effective against automated filers. Other than a bit of bad PR, they won't face any punishment over this.

    Why would they have a dev sitting around watching the logs when they can just work on other projects or optimise the process to allow more claims to be filed?

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

  38. identicon
    Pragmatic, 25 Feb 2015 @ 4:56am

    Re:

    Seconded.

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

  39. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 4:57am

    Re: Re:

    There should definitely be a financial penalty. Every time. Just as long as there is a financial penalty for every case of PROVEN infringement.

    FIFY

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

  40. icon
    Seegras (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 5:00am

    Re: Re:

    Fine? For _perjury_? I think they should be brought before a judge.

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

  41. icon
    Seegras (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 5:35am

    Re: Total AssWipes

    > Why even accept a DMCA takedown from a foreign company?

    You've instituted a process, where everyone can demand to have taken down everyone elses content with impunity. So why would you want to discern whether the request came from a foreign company?

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

  42. identicon
    Just Another Anonymous Troll, 25 Feb 2015 @ 6:16am

    Re: Re:

    No thank you, because that's not equal at all. A good portion of "infringement" is either accidental or immaterial. Not attributing a work properly is infringement, albeit accidentally. That can easily be solved by sending a letter to the infringer saying "hey, you need to attribute properly/pay for rights". Furthermore, if I use your copyrighted music for background music in my video, that's infringement too. Of course, it causes absolutely zero harm because no one is watching my video to secretly pirate music, they're watching it to see my video. That can be again resolved by an email requesting removal of the music.
    Filing a false DMCA notice, on the other hand, is always harmful. Either the recipient's free speech is being infringed upon, or you're trying to steal their money. (cough contentID cough) There you have it, false DMCAs are far worse than instances of infringing.

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

  43. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 Feb 2015 @ 6:41am

    Re: Re:

    "every case of infringement"

    Copyright infringement is very difficult to identify but false DMCA takedown requests are extremely easy to spot (Google even publishes how many false notices it receives from various companies which is taken care of by its (semi)automated system).

    Why should penalties exist for something that is complicated to spot over something that is trivial to spot?

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

  44. icon
    PaulT (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 7:09am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "Of course, it causes absolutely zero harm because no one is watching my video to secretly pirate music, they're watching it to see my video."

    There is an exception to that, of course - cases where copyright, licencing or other factors cause the song not to be available via legal means for streaming or download. The solution to this is making the song legally available, not trying to sue anyone who lets others hear your music, but sadly we're still at the "we only want to do that if the artists can instantly retire from the royalties" stage with many of these fools.

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

  45. icon
    PaulT (profile), 25 Feb 2015 @ 7:12am

    Re: Re: Re:

    "There should definitely be a financial penalty. Every time. Just as long as there is a financial penalty for every case of PROVEN infringement."

    ...and ONLY with financial penalties comparable to the ACTUAL losses incurred by the act of infringement. Not $100,000 per song just because.

    That's more like it. If the attacks were both correctly targeted and proportionate to the act, we wouldn't be having these conversations.

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


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