Copyright Troll Sends DMCA Notices Targeting Anti-Troll Websites & Lawyers

from the oops dept

We talk a lot around here about the many problems with the copyright trolling industry. Those problems take several forms, but they can be best globalized as a problem of the copyright troll's basic business model. These groups claim to tackle piracy in defense of the content creators with whom they contract, but they do so not by spear-fishing confirmed infringers with sound evidence, but rather they cast as wide a net as possible based on flimsy evidence at best, all in the hopes of producing enough settlement money from scared recipients to make some coin. This bird-shot approach, to further mix my hunting analogies, inevitably creates serious collateral damage and exposes how poorly constrained the technology used to identify infringement is to reality.

To see this at work in the most ironic and palm-facing degree, we can take a look at IP Arrow. We've discussed IP Arrow in the past, in particular its happily sending out bogus DMCA notices for legit businesses that seemed to falsely claim that its clients own the rights to child pornography. Also, we wrote about how the owner of the organization owed millions of dollars to Hollywood for having run his own warez site years previous. More recently, it seems that either the technology IP Arrow is using to identify infringing parties for its clients has taken a really stupid turn for the worse, or the organization has graduated to trying to use the DMCA process to stifle criticism.

This week, the operator of troll defense blog Fight Copyright Trolls pointed out to fellow troll defenders DieTrollDie that IP Arrow had reported the site to Google for being a copyright infringer, which it most clearly is not. The problem began in January when DieTrollDie (DTD) published an article about numerous trolling cases filed by ME2 Productions, the company that holds rights to Mechanic: Resurrection.

ME2 has been suing BitTorrent users all over the United States, so the cases naturally came to the attention of DTD, which offered its usual critique of the company’s actions thus far. However, in explaining certain flaws in some cases, the site referenced the hash value (B5201111ACEC1E5025DE3087B15DF84612C02579) of one of the pirate copies of Mechanic: Resurrection floating about on the Internet. This was enough for IP Arrows’ bots to flag DTD as a pirate site and report it to Google. While this was probably a simple error, this is an extremely sensitive area so it’s easy to see how some might view the takedown as an attempt to silence ME2’s critics.

In the generous view, this is where the criticism of IP Arrow's laughably wide piracy net comes in. If this was indeed done in error, it's no small error, and it's a terrible look regardless. The fact of the matter is that DTD's work is criticizing organizations like IP Arrow and reporting on the tactics it uses. For a DMCA notice to arrive on the doorstep of that criticism simply because a post by DTD referenced the hash of a torrent as a part of its reporting is ridiculous. Keep in mind that sites like DTD are well-versed in how to handle these kinds of bogus DMCA notices, while most of the public is not. Even kindly looking upon this as an error leaves IP Arrow with a serous problem.

Except that DTD wasn't the only organization crtical of IP Arrow that received a notice.

The same takedown notice filed against DTD makes matters worse by also targeting yet another website setup to help people targeted by copyright trolls. Troll-Defense.com is operated by Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus, a Washington law firm that’s extremely unlikely to be infringing upon Lionsgate or ME2 copyrights. Nevertheless, the site was also reported to Google for copyright infringement. Bizarrely, in each case the target of the infringement notices were court papers referencing ME2’s Mechanic: Resurrection cases against alleged copyright infringers. As in the reporting of DTD, it doesn’t look good that sites offering legal help to citizens are being targeted by companies with connections to the content in question.

“At first I thought IP Arrow was too stupid to understand what a hash file is. But after seeing that they also tried to remove search listings to publically available court documents, it looks like an effort to hide information concerning their copyright trolling operation,” DTD’s operator says.

You know how the saying goes: never ascribe to malice that which can be explained by incompetence. And it's more than a bit tempting to play this all off as IP Arrow simply being terrible at its stated goal. Whether that's the case or not is unclear, but it only barely matters, because either way we end up at the same place: IP Arrow critics getting DMCA takedown notices on content that isn't even remotely infringing material and is in some cases publicly available case filings. These two sites know how to handle this nonsense, but how many innocent sites have been caught in this wide net and caved? At least some, it seems.

DTD also expressed concern that considering the volumes of notices being received by Google, it’s likely that innocent sites will fall victim to errors like these. It turns out that those concerns are well founded. Torrent-Defense has been targeted by IP Arrow on several occasions (1,2,3), with Google delisting pages 100% of the time.

This hasn’t pleased lawyer Benjamin Justus, who operates the site for Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus.

“With courts and consumers already concerned that mass copyright suits by ME2 and its affiliates are being pursued in arbitrary fashion, I think that ME2’s agents’ targeting innocent parties with baseless takedown notices will only further the skepticism that these companies are not engaged in legitimate enforcement efforts,” he concludes.

Frankly, the penalties should be far greater than mere skepticism. And having sites run by law firms getting these DMCA notices probably isn't the best plan for IP Arrow.


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  • identicon
    christenson, 3 May 2017 @ 1:53pm

    Lenz

    Dear Supreme Court (and EFF):
    This is why we have Lenz versus Universal Studios, and this is why Stephanie Lenz should be owed damages.

    Please consider these facts in your opinion.

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

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2017 @ 2:16pm

    wa wa wa mommy mommy I'm being sued

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

  • icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 3 May 2017 @ 2:47pm

    And now you posted the hash here. Everyone place your bets on how long until TD becomes the subject of a takedown...

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2017 @ 3:36pm

    " IP Arrow's laughably ..."

    A word of warning: Joe Morganelli is known for threatening defamation lawsuits against critics who scrutinize (as well as mock or laugh at) his company's work, and that includes anonymous posts on public discussion sites.

    What's not as widely known is whether anyone has stood their ground and (presumably) called his bluff.

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

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 3 May 2017 @ 4:07pm

      Re: " IP Arrow's laughably ..."

      TD meanwhile is well known for laughing off baseless threats and even airing the more entertaining ones for everyone here to have a good laugh at, and if that doesn't work they're more than willing to call the 'I'll see you in court if you don't fold!' bluff or even go to court if need be.

      I don't think they have much to worry about.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2017 @ 4:48pm

      Re: " IP Arrow's laughably ..."

      Mah boots is a quakin man ....

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

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 3 May 2017 @ 4:17pm

    Just... how?

    We've discussed IP Arrow in the past, in particular its happily sending out bogus DMCA notices for legit businesses that seemed to falsely claim that its clients own the rights to child pornography.

    If utterly baffles me how anyone is willing to employ the company after a stunt like that. I mean, I know full well that accuracy isn't even a concern to either party, but a company that claims that it's clients own the rights to child porn is one that no-one should be interested in hiring.

    Did they just do a search for companies in the field and picked one at random or something? Do no research whatsoever into who they were hiring? Indifference to quality in favor of quantity is one thing, but you'd think companies at least would want to hire someone that would try to avoid making mistakes that bad if for no other reason than to avoid the potential mess should anyone run across their claim-by-proxy.

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

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 3 May 2017 @ 5:11pm

      Re: Just... how?

      "utterly baffles me how anyone is willing to employ the company"

      Companies like IP Arrow are selling snake oil, and they get away with it because none of their customers bother to do their own research instead of taking the word of a proven con man. It's likely that few would even know that Joe Morganelli once ran one of the biggest warez sites in the world and was convicted of mass copyright infringement.

      Let's not forget that only a few years ago, leaked emails revealed that one of the biggest anti-piracy outfits admitted internally that their quasi-legal efforts to reduce piracy were basically ineffective if not futile -- despite telling their clients the exact opposite while they gladly took their money.

      https://torrentfreak.com/mediadefender-emails-leaked-070915/

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

      • identicon
        Christenson, 3 May 2017 @ 6:49pm

        Re: Re: Just... how?

        Remember what Netflix just said to pirates leaking the upcoming season of a show:
        "And....." Go ahead, make our day! Leak it!
        And the muscians (also this week on Techdirt):
        Pirate our music! We're glad you are here!

        So the handwriting is all over the wall...unless...home cooking is killing restaurants!

        lol

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

    • icon
      Ninja (profile), 4 May 2017 @ 5:00am

      Re: Just... how?

      It's easier to understand if you think about anti-piracy efforts as a huge industry designed to take money that would go to the artists and inject into other pockets while pretending to do something. That's why there's so much whining and crying whenever anyone tries to make copyright slightly more open. Think of leeches except for the fact that leeches actually have an important role in the ecosystems they are part of.

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

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 May 2017 @ 4:07am

    Lawless, Wild Web

    Trollin', trollin', trollin'
    Claim them streams are stolen.
    Keep them takedowns rollin', raw lie!

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


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