Hollywood Helps Show Why DMCA Takedowns Are Dangerous, By Taking Down Links To MPAA's Search Engine

from the careful-what-you-wish-for dept

A little over a year ago, the MPAA pulled out all the stops in announcing and promoting its new WhereToWatch.com website, which provides lots of information on where you can watch authorized versions of various movies and TV shows. The idea behind it was certainly a noble one. One of the big arguments made by many concerning accessing unauthorized copies of such content is that there aren't real legal alternatives. So the MPAA figured that if it makes it easier to find such authorized alternatives that would be helpful. And, indeed, that's a good idea.

Of course, underlying all of this was that the MPAA hoped to use this site to try to undermine the argument that piracy is about a lack of alternatives. The MPAA basically never misses a chance these days to point to the site as "proof" that Hollywood is meeting consumer needs, and thus claiming that piracy is not about a lack of authorized versions. It seems worth noting that this leaves out that not all authorized versions are convenient (which is another big complaint), including things like restrictive DRM or security-faulty technology. Or they do stupid things (at the demand of Hollywood) like only letting you watch a movie you paid for within a 24-hour time frame. But, let's leave that aside for the moment.

Instead, let's focus on the fact that the MPAA is using this site to push for revisions to the DMCA, such as pushing heavily for a "notice and staydown" provision that means that once they send a DMCA takedown notice, online platforms would be required to make sure such content never shows up again, or face serious liability. This is problematic on any number of levels, including the fact that it increases monitoring, decreases privacy and does nothing to take context into account (the same content may be infringing in some cases, while fair use or authorized in others).

And it totally fails to take into account the vast number of false takedowns. For example, how about false takedowns directed at the MPAA's own WhereToWatch website? Because TorrentFreak is reporting that Hollywood studios have been sending such bogus DMCA takedowns, directed at links to the MPAA's own site, which the MPAA itself has argued is a key part of its "anti-piracy" strategy. The article points to DMCA takedown notices sent for the WhereToWatch links for such Hollywood blockbusters as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay -- Part 2 and The Fault in Our Stars on Google, meaning that when you do a Google search on trying to find those entries on WhereToWatch, you come up empty:
Yes, yes, these are "simple mistakes" almost certainly made by companies hired by the studios who do terrible half-assed automated searches and takedowns without ever bothering to see if what they're taking down is legitimately infringing. But that's kind of the point. The MPAA wants a notice-and-staydown provision because they want to pretend that these kinds of mistakes never happen, rather than acknowledge the reality that they happen basically every day -- even to (or by) the MPAA itself.

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  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 7:14am

    Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

    Much like calls for censorship should result in the ones calling for such having their speech censored first for the sake of fairness, I think if the *AA's are going to argue for notice and staydown, every single one of their links that gets accidentally tagged should be permanently removed, with stiff penalties in place to ensure that online services have plenty of incentive to never let them be re-listed.

    Fair's fair after all, they're the ones calling for such draconian measures, and insisting that there's no problem with them because mistakes are just so very rare and inconsequential, I think it only right that they get to see what it's like being on the receiving end of such treatment.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:09am

      Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

      Hollywood would just give Google a list of all the domains belonging to them and demand that Google whitelist all those domains to ensure that none of the content on those whitelisted domains ever get removed even when they listed in DMCA takedown notices.

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

      • icon
        John85851 (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:17am

        Re: Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

        And how would this work? Would Google argue with the MPAA's lawyers that the MPAA itself asked that the sites be whitelisted?
        The problem still remains: the MPAA uses external companies and tools to issue takedowns and those companies are paid to find "bad links". If these companies cared about whether links are good or bad, they wouldn't issue takedowns to the MPAA's sites in the first place.

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

      • icon
        tqk (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:02am

        Re: Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

        Hollywood would just give Google a list of all the domains belonging to them and demand that Google whitelist all those domains ...

        And that would work, until the next new domain goes online and they ("Oopsie!") forget to update Google, and poof, their new domain gets DMCA'd.

        How many stories have we seen of $HONKING_BIG_ORG forgetting to renew their domain registration leading to domain squatters snapping it up and selling it to spammers, malware vendors, & etc?

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

      • icon
        jupiterkansas (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 12:09pm

        Re: Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

        Excempt MPAA companies aren't the only ones producing content. You would have to do this for any company that produces IP, and then you'd in effect be creating a permission only internet.

        Never mind that Google isn't the internet, and takedowns aren't for links to content but to the content itself, which isn't controlled by Google.

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

      • icon
        klaus (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 1:45am

        Re: Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

        Sorry, but why on earth should Hollywood get preferential treatment? It's bad enough that the USA feels it can foist it's absurd laws across the globe...

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:25am

      Re: Live by the DMCA notice, get de-listed by the DMCA notice

      Agreed, the reason we don't see public outcry is because Google (and others) refuse to comply with the most absurd requests. Or half of the visible Internet (including the MAFIAA itself) would have been removed. I suspect they would issue a DMCA to www.google.com at some point...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 8:41am

    read this earlier. the only problem being that there wasn't enough links removed and there were no fines dished out!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 8:44am

    Clicked on WhereToWatch.com link, after a couple seconds was redirected to equivalent Canadian site. Live in Ohio. Good job MPAA!

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      I'm in Canada. It does NOT redirect me to an equivalent Canadian site.

      For each show there are "Rent from $_.__" and "Own from $__.__" links. "Own" meaning "Rent until they change DRM standards after a couple years, as happens every time. Play on supported devices only. And even then the show you paid to 'own' may disappear regardless depending on our licencing deals."

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

    • icon
      JoeDetroit (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:01am

      Re: Canada here also

      & I'm in Michigan. I could make it to the bridge to Canada in about 45 mins!

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

    • identicon
      Chris Brand, 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:39am

      Re:

      "after a couple seconds was redirected to equivalent Canadian site" which presumably just said something like "You seem to be in Canada, so you don't get to watch anything" ?

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 20 Jan 2016 @ 9:27am

        Re: Re:

        Not far off, it is just a wall of service like "Google Play", "iTunes", "Netflix" with no search, etc...

        They probably know that if they offered a search and anyone put in prettymuch any popular movie/show that it would just say "Not Available" so they list all the services that exist instead.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:09am

    Clicked on link.

    Requires javascript.

    After allowing javascript saw commendable effort: random selection has six streaming options, plus option for cable on demand listing. Also has listing (albeit incomplete) for buying DVD/Bluray.

    My commendation stopped at the pricing: US$14.99 to own a digital stream, 4.99 to rent a digital stream.

    So A for effort, D for execution.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:14am

      Re:

      Clicked on link.

      Requires javascript.
      I'm sure the things they link to will require much worse than that.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:20am

      Re:

      You miss the point, the idea was never to show people the reasonable options available, as that would require them to offer reasonable options, it was solely about being able to point to it and claim 'Look, our content is available, we even show people where, and yet piracy still exists! Clearly we need even more laws to protect our profits!'

      If watching one of their movies required an in-person visit to a town 500 miles from the nearest major city, in order to get on a waiting list with a mandatory 6-month wait, only to have to travel to another city halfway across the country for a private screening, they would still insist that the process counted as making the movie 'available'.

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

      • identicon
        RD, 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:23am

        Re: Re:

        "Making available" apparently has two diametrically opposed meanings depending on whether the *IAA'S are using it in their defense, or against the general public (aka customers)

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

      • icon
        PaulT (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 12:39am

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, IIRC there was an article here a couple of years ago about how they considered a title "reasonably available" if it was present on just one of around 35-40 sites they were tracking.

        The logistics of someone actually using all those sites, with their mixes of pricing, DRM types, subscription/non-subscription, rental/sales, etc. was not something they considered, even if there were an easy, reliable way to search them all. Just being able to say "it was available" was enough, with no care about how someone would access it in the real world if a person was interested in multiple titles.

        They yet again mistook a fictional book as a how to guide, only at least this time it was the filing system from Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy instead of their usual 1984/Brazil inspirations. Regardless of reality, the pirates were again able to deliver a better product, as they chased away those willing to pay.

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

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 9:22am

    Hmmmmm... That should be interesting. Let them do it, sooner or later they will be all offline under the weight of their own stupidity. Or rather, a good, legitimate portion of the internet will not be available via Google...

    This is not the first time they target their own stuff, by far.

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

  • identicon
    Sean Gleeson, 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:45am

    I was redirected to the Canadian site too...

    ...and I am in Oklahoma City!

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

  • icon
    Coyne Tibbets (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:48am

    After DMCA

    DMCA nothing: there's tons of evidence that wheretowatch.com is a repeat deep-link offender. (Well, not "tons" and not "evidence" but why would that matter?)

    Next step is DOJ needs to confiscate the domain for five years.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 10:52am

    This is "You're doing a heck of a job Brownie" level of failure.

    They can't even keep their own sites from being flagged & delisted incorrectly, yet scream how more needs to be done. Perhaps it is time to make them deal with their own actual problems instead of giving them more superpowers to combat a problem that isn't as bad as they imagine.

    We let them have Hollywood accounting, perhaps we need to start forcing them to live in the reality the rest of us are sharing. They are lying to themselves that it is an outside evil force, when it is failure to participate in the market. They fail to meet customer demand, instead trying to impose more control to "protect" the content and punish those who pay them.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 11:35am

    There's more at work here...

    Think about it: they serve DMCA notices on every link on wheretowatch.com, so that they can't be found from Google. Then they get "notice and staydown" passed.

    Suddenly, you've got a situation where they have "notice and staydown" for each movie release owned by MPAA members -- sometimes before they're even available.

    By doing this, they've done an end-run around the legislation, effectively turning it into "This is our list of movies, if we see these show up on your service, you get fined."

    Meanwhile, they can keep pushing for more draconian legislation by pointing out the large numbers of people who aren't using wheretowatch.com (because they don't know it exists) but are just pirating the movies.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 1:37pm

    I would Really like to know...

    HOW all this works around the Government wanting NO ENCRYPTION on the net..
    many sites include Scripts to watch your system, encrypted.
    Digital encryption in the videos..
    HDCP which is encryption..
    Many sites are repositories of encryption and total abuse of it..

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

    • icon
      ECA (profile), 19 Jan 2016 @ 2:15pm

      Re: I would Really like to know...

      Whats interesting is the WHOLE of whats happened in the past...
      Companies TRYING to setup their own sites, FAILING..because they didnt realize that 1million people hitting your site can BREAK your servers..
      Setting up HULU, restricting HULU, changing contracts and requirements every 6 months, confusing the USERS..
      Then going BACK to trying to setup Servers AGAIN..
      THEN 3rd parties setting up to do the JOB, and PAYWALLS...
      Even YOUTUBE has an area to PAY to WATCH movies..

      Then comes the idea of Public domain...ANYONE tries to setup a site to show/give/display them...GETS SWATTED..
      Unless you have a TON of money, Major backing, a good LAWYER and 5+ years to SPEND in another state defending yourself..ITS NOT WORTH IT..

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

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 19 Jan 2016 @ 1:53pm

    The WhereToWatch website doesn't work very well. I searched for the TV shows Special Unit 2, 7 Days, All Souls, Thanks, Committed and Better with you, and it could find any of the many legal sources for these shows. Obviously the site is broken.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 19 Jan 2016 @ 4:39pm

    The MPAA could have saved all its time and effort by simply replacing WhereToWatch with a picture of a hand showing the finger. Functionally there would be no difference.

    Then again, the MPAA seems to insist on spending money on failures and then blaming it on piracy. Par for the course.

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

  • icon
    ECA (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 1:25am

    What could the movie industry gain

    leTS ASK ANOTHER QUESTION...
    WHY it works the way it does?

    Lets see...the movie and music industry holds all the cards.
    They can Price any part of, Making, distribution, Sales, Theaters, DVD, ALL OF IT..
    And it shows in the paperwork.
    Its turned itself into a Bunch of front companies..Just to SHOW that prices COST to much, and they dont make any profits.

    What could they gain with a NEW distribution system that eliminates 99% of its over head??
    They GAIN NOTHING...
    They could goto the Net, and create there OWN service, and sell for $1 per view...and make MORE money, and show a profit..
    But they DONT want to show a profit. They want to show a LOSS, and claim every cent.
    And get rid of about 1000 jobs local, and about 5000 in the system.. not counting actors and the makers..

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

  • icon
    klaus (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:12am

    "...the movie and music industry holds all the cards."

    I disagree with this statement: it seems to me that the public (as consumers) have the greater power as a) money flows from consumer to producer, and b) they have the means to bypass their distribution.

    The producer's power lies chiefly with their ability to influence lawmakers and law enforcers.

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

    • icon
      klaus (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 2:14am

      Re:

      Whoops, reply fail. The above was in response to ECA's comment above.

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

      • icon
        ECA (profile), 20 Jan 2016 @ 7:36pm

        Re: Re:

        tHERE ARE PROBLEMS WITH THIS..
        1. those on Top want the same wages, if not more..all the time.
        2. They dont think like that..If they arnt getting as much money, they raise prices..
        3. Same as 2..but, they BLAME others/something ELSE, for their failure, and NOT adjusting prices DOWN..

        This isnt as a Family trying to Cut corners, to make ends meet. They want to SHOW they are spending to much to cover the ENDS, and Show a loss..and not pay taxes...Which gives them an excuse. Then they BLAME something else as the problem..They dont want to Change/adjust things, because it WAS WORKING..

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

  • icon
    Advocate (profile), 22 Jan 2016 @ 3:42am

    My show isn't available..

    i wonder what i should do...

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


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