Web Sheriff Abuses DMCA In Weak Attempt To Hide Info Under UK High Court Injunction, Fails Miserably

from the hopefully-clients-are-only-paying-for-successful-takedown-requests dept

Last week, Twitter engaged in some dubious behavior on behalf of a few super-secret someones who'd rather the press didn't discuss their sexual activity. Twitter was apparently firing off "letters of warning" to users who had dared break an injunction issued by the UK Supreme Court forbidding anyone in the media from discussing a threesome involving a prominent British celebrity.

There was very little legal force behind the "warning letters" (despite threats from local authorities) and Twitter users were under no obligation to comply with the company's request. The fact that Twitter even bothered to issue these highlights the utter futility of injunctions/super-injunctions of this variety, which are really just a way for British citizens of a certain level of importance to control local media. It doesn't really matter if the UK's highest court upholds a super-injunction if it has no way of enforcing it beyond its super-limited purview.

That doesn't mean the lawyers who have obtained these injunctions on behalf of their clients aren't trying. While doing a bit of research for an unrelated story, I stumbled across Web Sheriff's utter failure to talk Google into delisting URLs by waving this injunction around in a threatening manner.

The copyright owner is (apparently): APPELLANT (COMPLAINANT’S IDENTITY PROTECTED BY COURT OF APPEAL RULING / ORDER)

Whatever these clients are paying Web Sheriff, it's far too much. Web Sheriff has issued 12 requests targeting 447 URLs. And so far, all 447 URLs are still live.

Contained in these takedown notices is an awe-inspiring wall of text -- something that might impress the average DMCA notice recipient. But Google? Not so much. Here's just a very small portion of it:

Then, of course, there are the URLs targeted for delisting, which -- thanks to Web Sheriff's failed injunction-quoting requests -- are all basically injunction spoilers.

Included in the failed notices are some seriously dubious requests, like Web Sheriff demanding an entire post at the Onion's AV Club be taken down because of a single comment and what appears to be Web Sheriff's own attempted Zendesk request for removal of content from Reddit.

Thanks to Web Sheriff's efforts to force the rest of the world to comply with UK law and its ridiculously unenforceable injunctions, more people are now aware of who's being "protected" by the ruling and where to find more details.


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  • icon
    Larry Vrooman (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 8:52am

    Web Sherriff & DMCA

    Your links are already bad or the pages have been whacked.

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

  • identicon
    TMC, 24 May 2016 @ 8:54am

    You know, it isn't really the Streisand effect if you aren't telling us who was in that threeway.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 9:12am

    Elton John and his partner and everyone else involved in this just needs to let this go already. They are the only ones keeping this in the news and it would have died long ago if they didn't keep it going with all the ridiculous injunctions and takedowns they keep doing.

    Please, just let this crap die already.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 2:39pm

      Re:

      I've been involved of dozens of threesomes. Literally could not care less about Elton John's. Yet here it is, over and over again. What the everloving fuck? There's something wrong with everybody involved in this.

      The people who give a fuck in the first place need lives. The "news" publications who publish the trash need to do their fucking jobs and focus on shit that actually matters. And Elton John and his husband need to be realistic about what their continued footstomping is doing - keeping this idiotic shit in the "news."

      Seriously. Fuck everyone.

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

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 25 May 2016 @ 5:53am

        Re: Re:

        Excuse my tinfoil hat but I can't help thinking that they may be hoping that the spice of the resulting publicity will help to boost their careers by keeping their names in the limelight. I've seen a few cases of scandal making celebrities out of people, whether they actually did what they were accused of or not.

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

  • icon
    DB (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 9:12am

    Could someone type in a few of those URLs for me so I don't have to?

    Not that I really care about David Furnish and his threesome.

    My real question is about the validity of the claimed copyright in the legal notice. It's not going to qualify as a strictly functional legal document. Presumably it qualifies as a work of fiction. Or performance art.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 9:25am

    (Hosting company employee here)

    We got a couple of these. I personally felt we shouldn't have even entertained the possibility of taking anything down, but our policies are dumb in several places.

    However, it was interesting to see WebSheriff squirm when we replied and told them we weren't taking anything down unless they could identify what we were supposed to remove and provide a copy of the court order requiring its removal.

    It went back and forth for a while with WebSheriff basically saying repeatedly, "There's stuff on that link that a court order says to remove - and we can't give you the order or tell you what to remove because the order won't let us."

    From the news coverage I knew what was going on... but really, how far do they expect to get with, "We have a court order, we swear!"

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

  • icon
    Ryunosuke (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 9:31am

    oh oh I know!

    I know who the celeb is! It's Barbara Streisand right?

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 9:32am

    if you're curious as to who was in the three-way, read the URLs targeted for delisting in the picture

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 10:09am

    Strange that the names aren't reported in the article. Not like Techdirt.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 12:33pm

      Re:

      Because it's not about them, it's about their attempts to cover up their actions. Who slept with who doesn't really matter as far as TD is concerned, who's trying to hide that information by trying to censor a bunch of stuff and how they're doing it, that matters.

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

      • icon
        Mike Masnick (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 1:15pm

        Re: Re:

        Because it's not about them, it's about their attempts to cover up their actions. Who slept with who doesn't really matter as far as TD is concerned, who's trying to hide that information by trying to censor a bunch of stuff and how they're doing it, that matters.

        Right. We don't really care about celebrity gossip. We do care about censorship.

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

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 31 May 2016 @ 5:18pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Replying late, but whatever...

          Wait - no, not *that* Whatever!

          If you care about censorship, why not name and shame those who are pushing and funding the censorship, namely Elton & company.

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

    • identicon
      ryuugami, 24 May 2016 @ 2:08pm

      Re:

      Strange that the names aren't reported in the article. Not like Techdirt.

      Not entirely true :)

      The names are not in the article text, but they can be seen in the last image (the one with a bunch of links). Some of the data (names) has leaked into the metadata (URLs) ;]

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 May 2016 @ 10:38am

    who needs to file a DCMA to censor content, just comment about the threesome and let Web Sheriff remove the page

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

  • identicon
    Big Mamma Cash, 24 May 2016 @ 11:51am

    Reminds me of my kid Elton, when he tried to hide the underpants he stole from hist best friend John. He was such a fool.

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

  • icon
    REM(RND) (profile), 24 May 2016 @ 3:12pm

    I had no idea who was involved, neither did I care. But thanks to Web Sheriff I now know the names of all 3. Thank you, Streisand!

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 25 May 2016 @ 5:57pm

    It's more like Web Censor Sheriff.

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

  • identicon
    Samia, 31 May 2016 @ 6:41pm

    Web Sheriff notices

    Here is a copy of a notice they keep sending my friend about a story on this affair he has on his website.

    This client is location in the US.
    How does this apply to them?

    Cc: websheriff@websheriff.com
    STRICTLY PRIVATE & CONFIDENTIAL
    ATTENTION ADDRESSEES ONLY
    COPYRIGHT COMMUNICATION
    & WITHOUT PREJUDICE (Save as to Costs)

    Dear Team,

    Further to our relevant notification and subsequent clarification re’ the above – both of which are set-out in the thread below for your ease of reference – we would again confirm and clarify as follows :-

    1. We trust that we have made our client’s / principal’s legal position perfectly clear – in short, our client / principal – and, of course, our client’s / principal’s family – is fully and reasonably entitled to basic levels of personal privacy … .. as is anyone / any individual or family.

    2. The above, fundamental principal is, of course, also backed-up in this instance by both the Judgment and the Injunction (as defined in our previous correspondence), plus Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects all citizens of the European Union / treaty signatory countries from gross invasions of their private lives (again such as in this instance).

    3. Again irrespective of the relevant laws in the United States or elsewhere, if the published content complained of is accessible in the United Kingdom – and which it clearly is in this case – then this again constitutes a clear and unambiguous violation of the Injunction and amounts to a contempt-of-court.

    4. We would add that, in certain circles, much ‘noise’ is being made about this matter as being a battle for freedom-of-speech – whereas, in actual fact, it is nothing of the sort … .. this is not a matter of national security or high political intrigue and where there is a corresponding ‘right’ to know … .. instead, it is simply a matter where the right-to-privacy prevails – as, of course, is recognised by the European Convention on Human Rights, ergo all countries of the European Union and for the benefit of their citizens.

    5. Once again, we would further highlight the fact that, in its judgment of 19th May 2016 (which can be accessed via the link below), the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom upheld the Injunction and, as such, its terms / restrictions very much remain in place / effect : -

    https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/docs/uksc-2016-0080-judgment.pdf

    In all of the circumstances, therefore, we would reiterate our reasonable request that you now either remove the invasive and infringing content in question, or otherwise geo-block such content from all European Union countries, failing which you shall leave our client / principal – and our client’s / principal’s family – with no reasonable alternative other than to implement suitable, direct, enforcement action against you. Naturally, we trust that this shall not prove to be necessary.

    We again hope / trust that the above clarifies the position for you – and many thanks, in advance, for respecting the rights of all concerned..

    As you shall again fully appreciate, this e-mail – containing, as it does, a position that is potentially prejudicial to the full extent of our client’s / principal’s open, formal position and claims (and those of our client’s / principal’s family) for, inter alia, disclosure, injunctive relief, damages and costs – is written on a without prejudice basis (save as to legal costs) and, as such, all of our said client’s / principal’s accumulated, worldwide rights and civil, regulatory, consumer protection, child protection and criminal remedies (and, again, those of our client’s / principal’s family) remain reserved in full.

    Regards,

    WEB SHERIFF®


    WEB SHERIFF® – Creative Protection™
    Incorporating Entertainment Law Associates™
    London Office : Argentum, Queen Caroline Street, London W6 9DX
    Los Angeles Office : 2500 Broadway, Santa Monica, California CA 90404
    New York Office : Empire State Building, 350 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10118
    Tel : +44(0)208-323 8013 (UK) / +1-424-238 4551 (LA) / +1-212-601 2723 (NY)
    Fax : +44(0)208-323 8080 (UK) / +1-434-238 4301 (LA) / +1-212-601 2601 (NY)
    E-Mail : websheriff@websheriff.com
    Web Sheriff Ltd Co. No. 4093131 Reg'd in England & Wales.
    Reg'd Office : Aurum, High Street, Pewsey, Wilts SN9 5AF

    Disclaimer :
    This e-mail is the copyright of Web Sheriff®.
    The contents of this e-mail are strictly private and confidential, are for the
    attention of the addressee(s) only and may also qualify for legal privilege.

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


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