Another Entity Thinks A Random Bundle Of URLs Is A Legitimate DMCA Takedown Request

from the please-delist-'*.com'-thx dept

Copyright as censorship is one thing. Copyright as blundering, drunken bull in the DMCA china shop is another. We've seen this before: sloppy algorithms generating DMCA notices targeting not only possibly infringing content, but also the rights holders' own websites, listings as IMDb, critics' reviews -- basically anything that might have the copyrighted content's name in the URL.

Now, there's this, uncovered by TorrentFreak: some thing calling itself "Copyright UNIVERSAL" (but not apparently related at all to Universal Pictures) has issued a string of colossal failures in DMCA notice form.

Over the course of a few days reporting organization Copyright UNIVERSAL asked Google to remove thousands of links from its search engine. In their listing we do indeed see some infringing URLs, but it’s the legal content that really stands out.

In fact, it is safe to say that no website is safe for the overzealous anti-piracy group.

Over the past week Copyright UNIVERSAL has asked Google to remove 4,224 URLs including various high profile sites.

TorrentFreak's rundown shows Copyright UNIVERSAL has "targeted" the MPAA's website, IMDb, various movie theaters' websites, Amazon, iTunes, Google Play, Verizon, Cox, the NBA, the NFL, the Verge… the list literally goes on and on.

At some point during the early part of CU's onslaught, Google itself declared the "rights holder" to be an imposter:

But it apparently withdrew that tag, either in resignation or because, despite itself, CU managed to occasionally hit its target. That being said, it's tough to tell what CU is attempting to protect. Many of its DMCA notices never declare what content it actually holds the rights to.

Instead, CU just gets down to business by listing every URL it can think of, covering such things as… Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojima's Twitter account… or an actor's own Facebook page. Digging around in just a single bogus takedown request, you'll find a link to a Steam FAQ page, a listing of French Open match times at SBNation, a Netflix page, and an interview with Jodie Foster at an Australian news site.

Fortunately, Google has done little more than allow Copyright UNIVERSAL to repeatedly beclown itself. Its most recent requests seem to be a bit more targeted, but still fail to explain why an entity using the name "UNIVERSAL" is "protecting" content owned by rival movie studios.

And it's only marginally better at hitting its targets. This particular DMCA notice may only target 38 URLs, but that includes multiple web pages featuring nothing more than interviews with "Barbershop 3" cast members or trailers promoting the film.

Because rights holders want the severest of consequences for those who don't comply with DMCA requests, but refuse to apply the same standard to themselves or their DMCA takedown bots, this sort of abuse remains common. Until that end of the exchange is taken more seriously, there's nothing stopping DMCA takedown companies from solemnly swearing that every single bogus URL is correct to the best of their knowledge, even when the most cursory review shows otherwise.

Filed Under: copyright, dmca, takedowns
Companies: copyright universal


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 11:48am

    On cases like these, it would be funny to see Google comply with the DMCA and takedown (and staydown, have to give the Copyright Cartel what they want!) the RIAA/MPAA's website listings.

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

    • identicon
      Wendy Cockcroft, 9 Jun 2016 @ 7:27am

      Re: Hoist, own, petard

      Dear Google,

      please stop checking to see whether or not Copyright Universal's claims are correct, just go ahead and take those links down. The resulting furore should put a stop to any more attempts at forcing you to play copyright cops.

      Kind regards,

      Wendy Cockcroft

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

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 9 Jun 2016 @ 11:55pm

      Re:

      That's probably the best way to fix this crap. Comply with every notice and refuse to put anything back up until they go through some arduous manual process. When they complain, ask why they sent a takedown notice in the first place if they didn't intend to have the website removed. These kinds of people tend to change their minds when it's themselves rather than random 3rd parties that suffer.

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

  • identicon
    David, 8 Jun 2016 @ 11:50am

    That's not a take down notice.

    That's a throw up notice. Definitely calls for some moderation.

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

    • identicon
      Anomalous Cowherd, 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:39pm

      Re: That's not a take down notice.

      I don't think it calls for moderation. It calls for ignoring the requests altogether. If the entity can't identify itself or the IP it's trying to protect, the requests aren't legal. Invalid requests call into question the supposedly valid requests. They may look valid, but if the submitter is just shotgun blasting DMCA notices, they're likely violating the sworn statement that they're operating in good faith. Google doesn't (and shouldn't) have to pay someone to try to interpret invalid notices.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:51pm

        Re: Re: That's not a take down notice.

        I'd go further, and argue that it opens the company up to sanctions under the DMCA, as they are clearly bad-faith notices.

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

  • icon
    Chris-Mouse (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:00pm

    Until that end of the exchange is taken more seriously, there's nothing stopping DMCA takedown companies from solemnly swearing that every single bogus URL is correct to the best of their knowledge, even when the most cursory review shows otherwise.

    Well, that only shows that the DMCA encourages the takedown companies to know as little as possible about the copyright status of a given page. If they can honestly say they know nothing at all about the page they want taken down, then they can also honestly say they have no information that would contradict the assertion that that page is infringing.

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

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:27pm

    Until there is a financial penalty, this will continue.

    If your work is wrongly taken down, people often give up because the costs of fighting back are so high.
    Yet nothing happens to those who send millions of incorrect notices.

    Hell even $20 for each incorrect url, would be enough to make them think twice. And those who decide they don't need to pay up, make it so they can legally be ignored until they are in good standing. Eventually the shitty companies will fold or improve and the number of notices will drop so the cartels can stop pretending that 10 million notices a week is evidence of anything other than their willingness to abuse a system to create an illusion.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:30pm

      Re:

      Until there is a financial penalty, this will continue.

      The rich can afford fines. For them, paying fines is like buying indulgences. I'd rather see them do jail time.

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

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:46pm

        Re: Re:

        > I'd rather see them do jail time.

        Riight. First thing you know, you've got Popcorn Time LLC in solitary for sticking a shiv in CBS Corporation, you've got RIAA "giving its best" to Warner Music Group and and Sony Music Entertainment, Sony Pictures Entertainment AND their parent Sony having to hot-bunk in the same cell.

        Hmm... You've a point, there, after all.

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

      • icon
        That One Guy (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Depends on how you do it. If the fine grows exponentially with every bogus claim filed by a company then it's going to get pricey, and even if the fine was static give the sheer volume of claims that they send out the amount would quickly get rather high, and if they can be completely ignored until they've paid then that gives them plenty of incentive to be careful. Of high importance would be to make sure that the fine was ultimately laid at the feet of the owner of the copyrights in question, not the company sending out the notices, such that they couldn't just rack up a large fine amount via a throw-away company, dump it and start fresh from another.

        Alternatively change the law so that only the right's owner or their designated representative can send the notices, and revoke the copyright in question after a certain number of false claims within a set period of time. A change like that and you can be sure that they would be very careful to check any notices several times before they send them out.

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

        • icon
          That Anonymous Coward (profile), 9 Jun 2016 @ 3:03am

          Re: Re: Re:

          The sending company has to register that the represent X holder and both have to agree that any fines are their joint responsibility. That stops the pump & dump of fly by night companies, and one could keep a list of principles involved in nonpaying crap companies.

          Imagine Universal finding itself getting a $400K bill with a notice that all Universal sourced complaints are not going to be processed until they pay up.

          While they can just try to think of it as a cost of doing business, it will add up and hurt them. They would be much more cautious.

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

    • identicon
      David, 8 Jun 2016 @ 2:03pm

      Re:

      Until there is a financial penalty, this will continue.

      "On penalty of perjury." is what the title states. The running rate for that offense is fingerwagging and a promotion. Repeat offenders might get a tap on the wrist.

      The actual idea would have been a jail sentence but we can't have that for the guys fighting the good fight against pirates and/or drugs, can we?

      One law fits all would be too much of a stretch.

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

    • identicon
      Quiet Lurcker, 8 Jun 2016 @ 2:08pm

      Re:

      $20 is chump change.

      Rights holder wants to enforce their rights under DMCA? That's fine. Make all valide DMCA notices include evidence of a bond valued at $15k per infringement, and a written promise to pay off all the lawyers and costs on both sides.

      Then, after three losses, any other cases in the pipeline are automatically decided against the rights holder and the rights holder can't file further notices for a minimum of one year, with that length of time increasing after each third loss.

      That's in fantasyland. In the real world, compel the judges to grant the fee shifting awards that already exist. I believe it's at 17 USC 505, or some such, where it says 'may'. Change that to say 'must' or 'shall'.

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

  • identicon
    TMC, 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:29pm

    You know, there's a way to interpret Copyright UNIVERSAL that suggests this is some kind of anti-DMCA takedown performance piece... wouldn't that be something.

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

    • identicon
      TripMN, 8 Jun 2016 @ 6:07pm

      Re:

      This. First thing I thought, some group of hack-tivists that want to show the absolute extreme of the abuse that DMCA abusers can manage without anything bad happening.

      Yes, it is completely crazy and the MAFI-AA's won't learn from it, but it is in some ways an interesting piece of performance art... maybe.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:37pm

    It's a surefire way to defeat online copyright infringement 100%, just DMCA the entire internet. The **AAs could not be happier.

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

    • icon
      Roger Strong (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:59pm

      Re:

      1979: Russia invades Afghanistan, declares "We were invited."

      2014: Russia invades Ukraine, declares the Russian troops and equipment "not Russian."

      2017: Russia invades Latvia, declares the invasion to be a "valid DMCA takedown."

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:53pm

    How about Google just desist the websites of abusers. It's their company they can do it and since they are not the internet people can still find them.

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

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 12:59pm

    Kobayashi Maru in real life

    if google *doesn't* take down an infringing URL- they will get sued.
    if google *does* take down a legitimate URL from a bogus DMCA request - they will get sued.
    if google does *nothing* asked - they will get sued.
    if google does *everything* asked - they will get sued.

    Since they can't do the *magic* process of taking down only the "bad" ones...

    It really looks like Google needs to change the rules. The only way to force that may be to take down CBS, NBC, *AA sites. Yes, they will get sued for doing so - but it may be the rule-changer that is needed.

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

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:08pm

    Take down IMDB

    It would be funny if IMDB complied with the takedown request and replaced the movie's page with a big message that said "Information removed due to Copyright Universal".
    How long do you think it would take the cast and crew and owners of the movie to rip apart Copyright Universal for taking down it's page? Then we might start to see some change in the way these bots issue takedown notices.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:18pm

    Notice and Staydown

    Internet Archive: Proposed Changes To DMCA Would Make Us “Censor The Web”

    "“Unfortunately, members of the general public were not invited to the Copyright Office proceedings last week. The many thousands of comments submitted by Internet users on this subject were not considered valuable input; rather, one panelist characterized them as a ‘DDoS attack’ on the Copyright Office website, showing how little the people who are seeking to regulate the web actually understand it.”"

    It actually shows how little they care about public input. They see democracy more as a nuisance than anything.

    We are trying to democratically deny them the service of completely controlling the government with no public input. So it is an attempted denial of service attack. After all these corporations paid good money for this service.

    https://soylentnews.org/article.pl?sid=16/06/08/0224226

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

    • icon
      orbitalinsertion (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 3:47pm

      Re: Notice and Staydown

      "Stakeholders" are easier to cope with when they are fewer, smaller in representation, and more powerful vested-interest groups. "Everyone else" in any given situation is too much of a bother and really, who cares about them?

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

      • icon
        That Anonymous Coward (profile), 10 Jun 2016 @ 7:27am

        Re: Re: Notice and Staydown

        The problem is they like to pretend the largest stakeholder shouldn't be invited to the table. It's time we no longer accept being banished to the garage at the kids table since we are the ones who are granting them those exclusive rights that they keep expanding while giving us nothing in return except more limitations & less progress to protect them from boogeymen.

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

  • icon
    orbitalinsertion (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:19pm

    It seems an awful lot like random pro-extreme individuals, or people with simply an incoherent business plan, take it upon themselves to send these notices. And then... ?

    Of all things, i see this as a very good target for a trademark infringement claim, the way that system operates.

    Finally, is this in fact a huge troll, or are they for real in some way? It seems to brush up against Poe's Law an awful lot for me. If they go after every ad for some next blockbuster release, it would be hilarious.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 1:56pm

    I'm glad I use bing

    /s

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

  • icon
    Get off my cyber-lawn! (profile), 8 Jun 2016 @ 2:26pm

    GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

    So the copyright maximalists want sites to just take their word that stuff is infringing and take everything down with the flimsiest of DMCA notices.....DO IT! Do it for one month, take every single thing down on the slightest hint of infringement or DMCA notice! Take it down regardless of who or what is requesting it! Take it down if your dog barks at the screen for no reason!

    Take it down! And it won't be long before those idiots realize that without a valid, functional, well-defined system...their "perfect world" where any DMCA takes anything down for any reason is actually a wasteland of broken links, 404 notices and lost revenue.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 8 Jun 2016 @ 2:51pm

      Re: GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

      The copyright maximalists would jump for joy at that idea, because it would destroy the existing internet and give them a chance to take full control over everything published on the new Internet.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2016 @ 2:40am

      Re: GIVE THEM WHAT THEY WANT!

      The only way this would work is if people issued false DMCA claims against the copyright maximalists and Google complied with it.

      Otherwise the maximalists will just list everyone else's site for delisting.

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


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