Platforms should respond by taking allegedly-infringing content down but in practice, some do and some don’t.
Full-blown pirate sites may not respond to notices at all for obvious reasons but some entirely legitimate platforms also refuse to comply in appropriate circumstances.
Google is one of those platforms and without the diligence of the Google Search team, at least 150 articles published on TorrentFreak.com would’ve been disappeared over the years due to bogus DMCA notices. We very much appreciate that first line of defense; since we don’t have to commit resources towards countering wrongful complaints, we can concentrate on our reporting.
To that end, today we can report that DMCA notices continued to be filed against us at Google, all of them demanding the deindexing of links to our news reports in Google search. We also received a few direct to us via email, more than usual in 2023. All complaints/takedown notices had something in common; 100% bogus, right across the board, and a complete waste of resources for everyone involved.
New Year 2023: Peaceful for 19 Days
By January 19, 2023, things were looking quite promising. No direct DMCA notices sent by email and no complaints sent to Google either, at least as far as we’re aware. On January 20, Google received a takedown demand to deindex from search results an article published just four days earlier.
Due to the popularity of the software, we believed that the alleged operator of pirate app PikaShow being arrested in India was newsworthy. Sadly, India-based anti-piracy outfit Markscan (on behalf of Hotstar and/or rightsholder Novi Digital Entertainment Pvt. Ltd) decided that Google should deindex our work, as the notice on Lumen Database reveals.
Google’s transparency report indicates that the notice, which demanded the removal of 47 URLs, was rejected in its entirety but because we mentioned PikaShow by name, the takedown notices kept on coming.
On January 21, Markscan sent a substantially similar DMCA takedown notice to Google, this time on behalf of the Disney+ Hotstar “over-the-top streaming service owned by Novi Digital Entertainment of Disney Star and operated by Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution, both divisions of The Walt Disney Company.”
Once again, the complaint demanded the removal of our article. The next day, January 22, Novi Digital Entertainment tried its hand with a similar takedown notice which targeted the same article once again. It enjoyed the same level of success as the first.
Inexplicably, on the very same day yet another anti-piracy company tried to remove exactly the same article but for different reasons. Working on behalf of Cricket Australia, India-based Copyright Integrity International claimed our article was in direct violation of its client’s rights in content relating to cricket matches of the KFC Big Bash League.
There were no violations, obviously, but in the cut-and-thrust world of bulk URL disappearance, no one sends notices demanding that content stays up.
Writing About House of the Dragon Infringes Warner Bros’ Rights
On October 22, 2022, we reported that the season finale of HBO’s “House of the Dragon” had leaked online, two days ahead of its official premiere.
After almost two weeks of DMCA silence following the PikaShow debacle, the calm was interrupted by a new complaint from Markscan. Alongside demands to take down links to House of the Dragon episodes and season packs on various pirate sites, this notice informed Google that our report on the months-old leak infringed Warner’s copyrights. It didn’t in any way.
And then, adding insult to injury, Hotstar sent another DMCA takedown notice to Google, this time targeting a different article that also mentioned PikaShow; or ƿᵻꝄɅ§ƕɵꟺ for those who don’t want to be targeted by bogus notices seemingly reliant on basic keyword searches.
Hey DMCA Bot: ████ █████████ ███████ ██ ██████████
When anti-piracy companies target a platform directly, Google’s diligence doesn’t enter the equation. Any DMCA notices received must be treated as legal documents and responses must be governed accordingly. On April 3, 2023, we received an email from Turkey-based anti-piracy outfit DigiGuardians Inc. and since the title contained the words ‘Copyright Claim’ we immediately gave it our full attention.
This is a notice in accordance with the Online Copyright Infringement Liability Limitation Act (OCILLA) a part of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 requesting the service providers to be held strictly liable for the acts of their users & immediately cease the access to copyrighted material. We have found an infringing material in your website which indeed is our movie ‘Güneşin Kızları’ released worldwide in 2015
The notice listed three URLs which needed to be “disabled immediately” along with a statement that the “information in the notification is accurate.” Unfortunately, we were unable to comply with the takedown demands because the URLs provided were not for TorrentFreak.com but an entirely different domain that we’d never heard of, under someone else’s control.
We aren’t publishing the domain name here since it’s flagged as malicious by several security vendors and blocked by a laundry list of DNS providers. What we can confirm is that graphics from TF were used on this bogus platform to make it look like a news site, albeit one with our logo, authors’ names, and sundry other pieces of information removed.
Sixty-two minutes after receiving the takedown notice, a detailed report containing all necessary information to show why the notice shouldn’t have been sent to us, was sent back to DigiGuardians. We even included a screenshot and explanatory text using the most sophisticated font available today.
We received no response to our detailed response addressing the bogus notice, which was also sent to a file-hosting platform that we’d never heard of, an email address listed in WHOIS records, and hosting company LeaseWeb, apparently.
More DMCA Notices For Another Site
On April 4, 2023, DigiGuardians sent another substantially similar DMCA takedown notice, with the domain name of the malicious site in the title, this time demanding the removal of 50 allegedly infringing URLs. Just seconds later we received yet another takedown notice demanding the removal of an additional 50 URLs, followed by another seconds after that containing a further 10 URLs.
“The information in the notification is accurate, and under penalty of perjury, that the complaining party is authorized to act on behalf of the owner of an exclusive right that is allegedly infringed,” the complaints added, pointlessly.
Then in the middle of October, DigiGuardians unexpectedly reached out, indicating they were interested in working with us to publish news on products or services, that type of thing. Nothing wrong with that of course but since TorrentFreak is a news site, we politely declined and said we’d happily take a look at anything newsworthy, should anything come up.
We also asked about the problematic takedown notices and noted that we’d be grateful if someone could fix the problem. Hard to say with 100% certainty that a bot responded, but the text seemed to assume we were interested in the offer. Sadly, it mentioned nothing about the copyright claims.
Give That Bot a Slap
After largely forgetting about the earlier run of nuisance, erroneous notices, on December 14 we started receiving them again. This time we were instructed to remove five allegedly infringing URLs pointing to the movie ‘Muhteşem İkili’ but once again a fundamental problem got in the way.
The infringing URLs listed in the notice were for a completely different and new domain, also nothing to do with us.
On December 29, when we received not one but two ‘Copyright Claims’ demanding the removal of over 50 URLs on someone else’s domain, after our communications about these issues were ignored yet again, inclusion in today’s list of bogus takedown notices was sealed.
In closing, we must acknowledge that these companies face massive challenges in their line of work and as such, mistakes will inevitably get made. We’re not unsympathetic either but when the same mistakes get made over and over again against the same site, one that is more likely to mention these disasters in public than any other online today, you do start to wonder.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.