Wordpress Takes A Stand Against Abusive DMCA Takedown Notices; Others Should Pay Attention

from the platforms-shouldn't-just-be-takedown-remailers dept

Automattic, the company behind blogging platform Wordpress, continues to prove that just because the issuing of DMCA takedown notices has largely been handed over to automated processes, the response doesn't need to be similarly robotic.

Its latest transparency report shows it has rejected 43% of the DMCA notices it has received as either incomplete or abusive. Contrast this to almost any other platform where the initial response is to take down content/links first and work backwards from there. (Contrast this further to services like YouTube and Soundcloud, where content is subjected to automated pre-screening that seems to result in just as many illegitimate "removals.")

Automattic's DMCA process is anything but.

We carefully review each notice to ensure it’s formally complete, and includes all information required by the DMCA, before taking action. Notices that don’t meet the requirements of the statute are included in ‘notices rejected as incomplete.’

We also may decline to remove content if a notice is abusive. “Abusive” notices may be formally complete, but are directed at fair use of content, material that isn’t copyrightable, or content the complaining party misrepresents ownership of a copyright.
In an effort to keep the worst abusers "honest" (or at least warn others performing the same intermediary functions), Automattic continues to maintain a "Hall of Shame" highlighting issuers of bogus takedown notices.

So, there's at least one major platform that has its users' backs -- something it has taken as far as the filing of lawsuits against serial abusers. And it's one of the few that will actually try to determine whether or not the usage of the disputed content falls under fair use. Automattic seems to have learned from its past mistakes, and now it's attempting to hold rightsholders and their representatives to the same standard it applies to itself. If content is going to be removed, the person(s) making these demands need to hold up their end of the bargain.

DMCA abuse isn't likely to stop anytime soon. The process to issue notices continues to become more streamlined, which puts even more non-infringing content at risk. On top of that, the automated processes used to compile lists of "infringing" URLs continues to be error-prone. This wouldn't be an issue if the companies providing these services to rightsholders spent a little (or any) time giving the notices a once-over before sending them out. The failure to do so not only has the potential to remove non-infringing content, but also to screw the same people they're supposed to be protecting -- not just in terms of reputation, but also financially.

A brief perusal of DMCA notices issued to Google finds multiple examples of non-infringing content being targeted by flaky automated processes. It also shows rightsholders are being billed for largely useless takedown requests filled with URLs covered in previous requests by the same company.

This recent request by IFPI Latin America contains 237 URLs --- 236 of which were already delisted in response to earlier requests.


This is far from uncommon and pretty much amounts to double billing. Even in cases where rightsholders pay a monthly or yearly fee rather than per DMCA takedown, it's still wasted money. While it's obviously easier to let machines do the work and humans to collect the paychecks, nothing about an automated copyright takedown notice process contributes anything towards healthier respect for the idea itself, or the creations protected by it.

Automattic, on the other hand, will continue to gather respect from its users and potential customers around the world simply by refusing to lay out a WELCOME mat for our new DMCA robot overlords.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, dmca abuse, transparency report, wordpress
Companies: automattic


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  • identicon
    Mr Big Content, 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:19am

    This is Why We Need Much Stricter Copyright Laws

    All this does is put more obstacles in the way of intellectual property owners trying to prevent theft of their intellectual property. Why should intellectual property be a special case, with all these extra hoops to jump through, compared to any other property? It should be treated the same!

    It is too much to expect intellectual property owners to bear all the burden of looking after their property. The Internet has a moral obligation to help us. After all, they are the technical experts, what is so hard for us should be childishly easy for them, they just don't want to do the work. Unlike normal property, intellectual property needs to be treated very specially and carefully, with lots of extra legal restrictions, because it so easily gets thefted otherwise.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:20am

    I wonder what would happen if they forwarded the results of the failed requests to the copyright holder directly.
    Imagine the conversation where they ask why the hell are we paying you to demand the same pages be delisted, after you managed to get them delisted?

    On the upside, this is more sunlight on the issue of bogus takedowns and it is nice to see a company doing something obvious to highlight the BS in the system. Explanations so simple even a Congresscritter can understand them. Getting them to fix it is a huge uphill battle but if you pile up enough evidence of a broken system perhaps that can trump the "contributions" and promises of future employment.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:07pm

      Re:

      That's actually a really good idea; every DMCA compliance should be accompanied by notification of the listed rightsholder. I bet we'd see some interesting results of that....

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

  • icon
    PaulT (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:21am

    "While it's obviously easier to let machines do the work.."

    Well, the reason it's easier is because these bots are badly programmed and merrily skip through basic logical checks without resistance. A human being would generally not be so stupid as to let addresses like 127.0.0.1, their employer's own websites or things like imdb and Wikipedia reference pages get added to the list. They certainly would be capable of doing some due diligence on the URLs they're reporting, and at least have a glance at them to ensure they're really infringing and not a completely unrelated product.

    I can understand the initial discovery of URLs being automated, but the sad fact is that it's only "easier" because people let them get away with it. If there were real penalties for false DMCA notices or real danger of them losing contracts over the regular mistakes made, they'd be employing people to manually vet each list before submission very quickly. Sadly there isn't, so they pass the costs on to everyone else while the usual parade of morons cheers them on.

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

    • icon
      Richard (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:47am

      Re:

      Service providers shouldbe allowed to charge a fee for every invalid request - and to reject, unopened, requests from sources that fail to pay.

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:00am

        Re: Re:

        If memory serves, some providers did try to do this and make them submit DMCA notices manually, but the cartels whined that doing that would be too much work and/or cost too much. Naturally, none of their valiant defenders see a problem with everyone else being forced to cover the time and costs for them for free.

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

        • icon
          Richard (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Of course one could try ignoring them until they actually complained - and then respond immediately - just enough delay to cause them an overhead but not enough to give them justification for a big lawsuit.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:19am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            That wouldn't work, as they would wait until they had an excuse to instigate litigation, and use it to try and bankrupt their opponents.

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

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:29am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Perhaps a motivated band of neer-do-wells should start burying all of the Congresscritters sites. They hate it when the laws for other people are applied to them, and perhaps first hand knowledge of how abused this is might motivate some changes.

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

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2015 @ 9:25am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            I don't think that would work, but it did give me an idea... elections are coming up, and all the candidates are attempting to use this 'social media thing'. It would be a shame if every single thing they put on youtube/twitter/instagram/facebook/snapchat/etc. had a DMCA put out against it. The best thing is, it just takes figuring out who the actual rights holder is for the images/songs/etc. they're using, and file on their behalf, as that's what the current regime is doing.

            Having the DMCA impact their election campaign would get them to notice the problems being caused.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 4:07am

    I assume these 43% were properly punished, at least in the cases of blatant abuse, right? No? So the companies will keep having to bear that burden and the abuses will keep happening.

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

  • icon
    Karl (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 5:43am

    So much for "outliers"

    it has rejected 43% of the DMCA notices it has received as either incomplete or abusive.

    That's actually at the low end of the spectrum. If you consider an "invalid notice" to be a notice on content that has already been taken down, that figure jumps to 57%.

    It shows, in no uncertain terms, that DMCA abuses are not "outliers."

    Now, to find out if other service providers or search engines (like Google or Bing) are taking down/delisting those same abusive notices. This should be possible if they send those notices to Chilling Effects.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 7:39am

    Cue the dipshit who will argue 43% is an "anomaly" in 3....2....1....

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

    • identicon
      The Dipshit, 29 Jul 2015 @ 8:23am

      Re:

      43% is clearly an anomaly. How many invalid requests does google get? 0! That's right, in the entire time since the DMCA, the wonderfully pirate-friendly DMCA has existed, google has gotten not one single invalid request. In fact, it barely even gets the valid ones And why is that? Pirates, that's why. You pirates attack anyone arguing for their rights as if they're Hitler or something.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 9:17am

        Re: Re:

        43% of the requests found invalid were incomplete or abusive.

        If you're so concerned with your rights, you should pay better attention to the paperwork you need to fill out.

        Then you wouldn't get a 43% rejection rate.

        And you wouldn't look foolish.

        Like you do now.

        BTW, do you have a citation for that "0" you put in as far as Google is concerned? Because if you looky here:
        http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/copyright/requests/
        you'd see a column titled "% of URLs not removed" - here's where that tricky mathy thing comes in (I know you IP maximalists LOVE math - so much that you manipulate it in ways that defy the laws of bullshit) - if that percentage of URLs not removed is greater than 0 (you know, 1, 2, 3, etc...), that means there was something wrong with the request.

        If there was something wrong with the request, then your claim of "0 invalid requests" is, like 43% of the ones sent to Wordpress, invalid.

        Is your comment yet another "anomaly?"

        But then again, thanks for showing up on cue, Dipshit!

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 30 Jul 2015 @ 9:28am

          Re: Re: Re:

          There's always at least one person that needs the /s (for either sarcasm or satire, take your pick) to get the joke....

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

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 29 Jul 2015 @ 11:12am

    Wishes

    I wish more companies did this, especially cyberlockers. I had a port of the emulator "Basilisk II" removed from my mediafire account because some idiot company claimed I was distributing the MOVIE "Basilisk". Yeah - there's due diligence. I've since taken to making sure none of the names I use for archives are remotely conflicting with movies. I shouldn't HAVE to, but that's the way things are right now.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 29 Jul 2015 @ 3:42pm

    it is about time someone created a self replicating worm that will be just a DMCA notice generator. That will send out billions upon billions of fake DMCA notices for anything and everything. Force them to make a change on how DMCA are handled. With no law for sending out an abusive.

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


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