You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to vet a DMCA takedown request for false positives, especially when the request only includes 28 URLs. You'd be wrong.
TMG (Germany's Tele Munchen Group, which acts as a European distributor for several motion picture studios) issued a takedown request on behalf of Universal Pictures France, hoping to delist links to a few movies. But its algorithm is obviously flawed.
To start with, it listed our article on the Hacking Team hack under its list of supposedly infringing URLs for the movie "Hacker."
Now, Hacking Team itself announced shortly after the data dump that "law enforcement was involved"
and that orders were being sent out to have their leaked documents and emails removed from the web. Without a doubt, Hacking Team does have law enforcement involved somewhere, but takedown notices from the company itself have yet to arrive. (Third parties seem to be a bit more active
on that front.) And with the documents stashed
around the web
, any takedown requests will be little more than symbolic.
I doubt it's using distant third parties to achieve its takedown goals, but clumsy, automated, Googling, "content protection" companies and rights holders are perfectly capable of inadvertently achieving the same aim.
It appears TMG's search for infringing URLs includes little more than the title, as this same request also targets a Reddit post
that has nothing to do with its "Hacker" movie.
Instead, this links to a twitch.tv account of a gamer allegedly using hacks to get an edge in DotA 2 (Defense of the Ancients 2
). Obviously, this has nothing to do with copyright infringement.
And, for good measure, TMG's efforts on behalf of Furious 7
in the same takedown request targets the movie's IMDb page
. Because why not take down a wholly legitimate page on a wholly legitimate site that not only offers a wealth of information on the movie itself, but also acts as an unpaid promotional platform, what with its ample supply of trailers and links to retailers.
And, yes, some people will point out that most of what is targeted appears to be infringing content (or links to it). But here's the thing. It doesn't take long to vet small requests like these for false positives. At the very least, TMG owes it to the rights holders that pay for these services to issue legitimate takedown requests
. Something like this making its way to Google makes TMG look, at best, clumsy, and at worst, incompetent and censorious. And while it's rarely a concern for rights holders and content protection companies, they also owe it to the rest of the internet to do their best to avoid targeting
legitimate URLs -- especially those that have absolutely nothing to do with the content being "protected" and are, as in the case of IMDb, sites that can actually increase sales.