Starz Issues Laughably Unbelievable Excuse And Apology For Taking Down Tweets

from the not-how-it-works-guys dept

Earlier today, I posted my article about how Starz was issuing obviously bogus takedowns concerning tweets about a news story on TorrentFreak concering how a social media agency, The Social Element, had issued bogus DMCA takedown notices to Twitter, about another story on TorrentFreak about some TV shows leaking online.

Last night I had reached out to Twitter, The Social Element, and Starz, but had not received a real response by the time the story went out (Starz had emailed back suggesting that I did not give them enough time to respond, but had somehow managed to issue a weird apology statement to others). Eventually, more than half an hour after my story went out, Starz emailed me the following statement:

STARZ takes piracy and copyright infringement very seriously and must take steps, when necessary, to protect our content and creative IP as it is the core of our business. As such, we engage a third-party vendor to seek out and remove social media posts that provide access to illegally acquired content. The techniques and technologies employed in these efforts are not always perfect, and it appears that in this case, some posts were inadvertently caught up in the sweep that may fall outside the DMCA guidelines. That was never our intention and we apologize to those who were incorrectly targeted. We are in the process of reviewing all of the impacted posts as well as the scope and procedure for the previous takedowns and are working with our vendors to reinstate any such content that was inappropriately targeted for removal.

This statement appears to differ, slightly, from the one they gave to Variety, where they sort of tried to imply that mysterious hackers were responsible, saying that the company had 'recently incurred a security breach" which somehow (why?!?) "prompted the company to hire a third party for copyright enforcement." I don't see how a security breach would necessitate such a hiring. Nor do I see what that has to do with sending bogus takedowns, many of which appeared to come directly from Starz, and not from any third party. At the very least, Starz didn't use the "security breach" claim in the statement it sent me.

However, that does not make the statement any more believable. By my count, using Lumen Database (which might not be complete), The Social Element sent 42 DMCA takedowns to Twitter over this topic between April 8th and April 11th. Then Starz itself took over on Saturday the 13th and sent another 31 notices on Saturday and Sunday, for a total of 73 such notices. Both of the notices are notable for the lack of any information other than the links to the tweets, which would at least suggest that they may have been sent by the same individual or firm, who then changed who it claimed to actually be sending the takedowns.

I asked Starz if it could say if The Social Element was the third-party vendor in question, and Starz informed me that it "cannot confirm which vendor" was involved. The Social Element itself has not responded to multiple emails (and a phone call).

Meanwhile, the other aspects of Starz's statement are similarly unbelievable. We agree with Starz that the "techniques and technologies" employed by companies who file DMCA takedowns are not always perfect (though, it's nice for a Hollywood company to finally acknowledge as much), but the idea that it was not Starz's intention to target people reporting on news and that the tweets were "incorrectly targeted" is literally unbelievable given the notices that Twitter users received. Multiple ones stated that the takedown demand forwarded to them by Twitter noted that the takedown was specifically because the tweet "leads to article containing unreleased show imagery." In other words, they knew exactly what they were doing.

The other problematic part of the statement from Starz is the claim that some of those "caught up in the sweep... may fall outside the DMCA guidelines." No, it's not the "DMCA guidelines" that are the problem. It's the actual law. Copyright law does not allow you to censor news articles you don't like, or tweets about those news articles, and yet that's exactly what Starz has done.

I responded to Starz by pointing out these problems with the statement and suggesting, politely, that the statement would come off as entirely unbelievable, and that the company might want to consider putting out a more believable statement. The company declined to do so, simply reiterating:

"... we are reviewing and addressing all of the processes and procedures by which we are identifying and acting on social posts and activity that may have triggered these notices being sent, as there were clearly individuals and posts being targeted that should not have been per the guidelines."

Again, it's not "guidelines" that are the issue here, but copyright law itself.

Either way, thanks to Starz for, once again, demonstrating why demanding more aggressive copyright and enforcement almost always leads to out and out censorship.

Filed Under: censorship, copyright, dmca, takedowns, tweets
Companies: starz, the social element, twitter


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  1. icon
    Gary (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:09pm

    Thanks for the followup!!

    Without any penalties for false DCMA claims, public shaming is the only downside to automatic or outright vindictive notices.

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

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:13pm

    "Security breach" claim

    They probably mean that a security breach allowed the shows to be leaked. Depending on their agreements with distributors, they might actually have some obligation to stop unauthorized distribution. It likely doesn't require them to outsource that, and certainly wouldn't require them to be indiscriminate.

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

  3. identicon
    MathFox, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:17pm

    Rule 1 of censorship

    Don't talk about censors or censorship.

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

  4. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:21pm

    Which "free speech" lawyer threw a tantrum to get a Ripoff Report (the site that "never" takes down posts) taken down?

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

  5. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:23pm

    Re:

    And which lawyer did NOT file a defamation lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations over said Ripoff Report?

    Didn't someone say here that online reputations are deserved? Does that apply even when the lies one tells are easily proven false? Section 230 prevents them from being removed even when proven to be lies. This sets up innocent internet users to be sued for repeating what they read online, based on the incorrect assumption that if it's on the internet, it's true.

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

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:29pm

    Abuses of the DMCA or of copyright law in general should be severely sanctioned, as this makes it difficult for legitimate rightsholders, particularly indies, to enforce their own rights.

    I've sent maybe a half-dozen DMCA notices in my entire life to cover almost two dozen content items. That's not abuse. I did notice that one place required that the notice include an explicit waiver of liability for the intermediary, which the law does not provide for. Without that explicit waiver, the intermediary refused to acknowledge the DMCA notice as valid.

    "Red flag" liability should also apply.

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

  7. icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:31pm

    To play Devil's Advocate...

    and certainly wouldn't require them to be indiscriminate.

    Perhaps they not only have a contractual obligation to mitigate unauthorized distribution, but the time limit imposed by the contract is so ridiculous that the only way to meet that limit is to use a bot to immediately issue a takedown notice for anything that could possibly be unauthorized distribution.

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

  8. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:31pm

    Starz would be a great place to air a documentary about a certain internet mafia...

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

  9. icon
    Matthew Cline (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:32pm

    Re:

    a certain internet mafia

    It'd be really great if you'd stop being coy and actually name names.

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

  10. identicon
    MathFox, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:35pm

    Re:

    The "Red flag" intermediary you're talking about could be in a totally different country than the US, under different laws without DMCA. Did you check jurisdiction?

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

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Bring it on

    Put up or shut up. Except we all know you ain’t got shit you impotent, old, fuckwit.

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

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:42pm

    Re: Old man yells at Internet film at 11

    “Red flag" liability should also apply.”

    It doesn’t. Tough shit bro.

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

  13. icon
    Thad (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re:

    I don't see any outcome where he keeps talking that qualifies as "really great".

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

  14. icon
    Thad (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:44pm

    Re:

    "Red flag" liability should also apply.

    Oh, there's definitely a red flag that applies here.

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

  15. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:44pm

    Re: Sun shines on a dogs ass once in a while.

    Probably Marc Randazza. Though it almost physically hurts to say bro. You might actually be right, for once. That boy probably was all mobbed up.

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

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:45pm

    We agree with Starz that the "techniques and technologies" employed by companies who file DMCA takedowns are not always perfect....

    Too true. Despite their best efforts, almost a hundredth of one percent of their notices actually contain valid URLs to content of some sort; and it is at least conceivable that some of that content is infringing.

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

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:46pm

    Re:

    It would be super easy, everyone involved is right there!

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

  18. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:47pm

    Re:

    Indeed, so long as there's no penalty for abuse, then it's a given that it will be abused.

    Now, if they law was actually balanced rather than entirely one-sided...

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

  19. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re:

    Wouldn't that be a reference to MAFIAA who (in non-amalgamated form) pushed for the DMCA?

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

  20. identicon
    Glenn, 15 Apr 2019 @ 1:24pm

    "STARZ takes piracy and copyright infringement very seriously..."

    I think I see the problem.

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

  21. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 1:26pm

    Re:

    Without that explicit waiver, the intermediary refused to acknowledge the DMCA notice as valid.

    Assuming this was a US-based company, it doesn't matter whether they acknowledge the notice as valid. If your notice met all of the requirements of 512(c), it's valid. If the intermediary doesn't act accordingly, they lose their safe harbor protection.

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

  22. icon
    Toom1275 (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 1:30pm

    Re: Re: Sun shines on a dogs ass once in a while.

    Jhon already posted a fictional conspiracy (originally made up by Roca labs) about some defamatory conspiracy between pissedconsummer/Ramdazza/Mikedirt.

    Either his brainrot has progressed so far he forgot all about that, or he's been busy sewing/pirating a different whole-cloth defamatory conspiracy. Perhaps this one including The Lying Indian™.

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

  23. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Sun shines on a dogs ass once in a while.

    What we need now for the mandatory plot twist, Jhon is Randazza and I dounno, an ostrich.

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

  24. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Lincoln Brash Behemoth, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:12pm

    So was done by time you got 'round to it...

    And yet you seem to be taking credit for putting in the whammy.

    Typical Techdirt. Going for cheap "win", which may well have been due to lousy automating, 'cause you're so desperate for any victory.

    While you neglect dozens of vastly more important topics. -- Did you even notice that, YES, the EU passed the dread Internet-ending Article 17? Pirates and piracy are slowly being taken down by Law.

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

  25. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:18pm

    Re: So was done by time you got 'round to it...

    Where did they take credit for forcing Starz to admit it screwed up?

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

  26. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:26pm

    Re: So was done by time you got 'round to it...

    Going for cheap "win", which may well have been due to lousy automating

    Aren't you the guy who flips the fuck out every time one of your comments is caught in the spam filter?

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

  27. icon
    Seegras (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:29pm

    Re: So was done by time you got 'round to it...

    The opposite, quite the opposite. The EU just passed a law that screws artists of half their earnings (article 16) on behalf of the publishers.

    In this context "piracy" is not "being taken down by law" but the law has be been taken down by pirates. The pirates being the publishers.

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

  28. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 2:36pm

    Truly, they are the gift that keeps on giving

    Possible automation results in bogus DMCA claims: 'Nothing to see here, probably just an accident.'

    Actual automation results in their comment(s) being caught by the spam filter: 'Conspiracy, this is proof that TD staff are out to get me and are as obsessed with me as I am with them!'

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

  29. identicon
    Bobvious, 15 Apr 2019 @ 3:41pm

    Re: Re: actually balanced rather than entirely one-sided

    You mean some kind of Fairness Doctrine for the internet?

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

  30. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Re: Re: actually balanced rather than entirely one-sided

    Umm, no?

    Though I'm almost certain that was meant humorously, just for clarity my point was that the DMCA(and most copyright law really) is entirely one-sided, in that those receiving claims face penalties for not acting on them and/or trying to fight back, but those sending them face no penalties whatsoever, even for blatant abuse of the system(or using it as it was intended, depending on how cynical you care to be).

    If there were real penalties for abuse of the various copyright laws that even came close to the penalties for infringement or even accusations of infringement then you'd see a lot less of said abuse, but as there isn't... well, hardly a surprise that abuse is so rampant(which is not to say that said abuse is at all acceptable.)

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

  31. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 4:10pm

    Re: Blue balls wouldn’t know what a “win” looked like

    “Typical Techdirt. Going for cheap "win"”

    Doesn’t matter if it’s an inch or a mile bro. A win is a win.

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

  32. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 6:51pm

    Re:

    Pirates and piracy are slowly being taken down by Law.

    I thought SOPA was supposed to do that.

    Or FOSTA? SESTA?

    Or Home Taping is Killing Music?

    How is it that every time you purchase a law to deal with piracy it proceeds to do absolutely jack all?

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

  33. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 15 Apr 2019 @ 7:54pm

    Re: Re:

    How is it that every time you purchase a law to deal with piracy it proceeds to do absolutely jack all?

    'Doing nothing' would be an improvement actually, because while those laws do nothing to prevent copyright infringement they certainly screw over legitimate customers/creators left and right.

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

  34. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Apr 2019 @ 10:41pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Oof, my bad. Should have mentioned "jack all" to piracy.

    Then again, given how gleeful out_of_the_blue is whenever anomalies happen, and his masturbatory support for statutory damages and settlement letters, screwing over legitimate customers and creators was likely the end goal.

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

  35. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 12:13am

    To use a line I learned on the Twitters from Sex Workers...

    FUCK YOU, PAY ME.

    You hired a company to do for you.
    They went apeshit & then double, tripled, quadrupled down on it.
    There isn't an apology large enough to cover this, but I bet if you were forced to pay for each bad notice you might fire your super hero team for hurting your bottom line.

    Its time to make the penalties the same on both sides, if only because it would force the **AA's to the table to fix the law. They will whine and scream about how unfair it is, and then they might have a tiny spark of understanding of how unfair the laws been to everyone else left to bear the burdens & costs of their jackassery.

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

  36. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 16 Apr 2019 @ 2:43am

    Re:

    Its time to make the penalties the same on both sides, if only because it would force the AA's to the table to fix the law. They will whine and scream about how unfair it is, and then they might have a tiny spark of understanding of how unfair the laws been to everyone else left to bear the burdens & costs of their jackassery.

    Not a chance, I've no doubt that they would merely try to once more exempt their half from any sort of penalties, such that it was right back to being entirely entirely one-sided.

    That said, I am all for the penalties being equal for both sides, as if their victims have to suffer then so should they, and some actual penalties would drastically cut down on abuse, even if it wasn't enough to convince them to rethink the whole thing.

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

  37. identicon
    Bobvious, 17 Apr 2019 @ 7:13am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: actually balanced rather than entirely one-sided

    Yes TOG. I suppose I should have used the /sarc tag, but you managed to work it out as usual. Of course, politicians are ALL in favour of Fairness, as long as it's ONE-sided Fairness.

    "All people are equal, but some are more equal than others."

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


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