The DMCA takedown process allows copyright holders to report infringing content and have it removed or taken down.
It’s a powerful tool that takes millions of URLs and links offline every day. In most cases, this happens for a good reason, but some takedown efforts are more questionable.
Fraudsters occasionally use false DMCA notices to target competitors. The strategy can be particularly effective when notices are sent to Google, as the search engine actively downranks domains that are frequently mentioned in takedown requests.
YTMP3.nu is one of the sites regularly targeted by takedown requests. The YouTube download portal has more than 40 million monthly visits but believes this figure would muc: higher today if Google hadn’t removed many of its search results.
The site is regularly targeted by legitimate music industry groups, including the RIAA and BPI, who allege that the site violates the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision. However, the stream-ripping service also views itself as a victim due to the bogus takedown notices sent by one or more competitors.
YTMP3.nu and sister site Y2mate.nu are operated by CreativeCode Ltd, a company incorporated in Anguilla. In an attempt to curtail the abuse, the site sent a cease and desist letter to Google in April, asking the search engine to begin verifying senders of DMCA notices. In addition, YTMP3.nu also asked for a litigation hold in anticipation of future legal action.
This cease and desist notice was followed up by a lawsuit in August, where the company sued several “John Doe” competitors for sending false or fraudulent DMCA notices to Google.
Filed at a federal court in California, the complaint accuses one or more CreativeCode competitors of sending fraudulent takedown notices. This includes one that was sent by “End Of YouTube Converter,” claiming to protect the Rick Astley track “Never Gonna Give You Up.”
The unknown senders stand accused of violating the DMCA, Intentional Interference with Prospective Economic Advantage, and breaching California’s Unfair Competition Law. Through the lawsuit, the YouTube rippers hope to recoup at least $500,000 in damages.
While YTMP3.nu’s parent company may have a valid claim, there’s a key problem; the senders of these allegedly bogus takedown notices are unknown. To find out who they are, the company now seeks help from Google.
Help from Google?
A few days ago, CreativeCode submitted an ex parte application for immediate and limited discovery to the court, requesting Google to share all identifying information it has on the senders of these DMCA notices.
The takedown requests are already shared publicly by Google through the Lumen Database, but these public listings omit privacy-sensitive data. This is exactly the type of information that the YouTube rippers need to expose the fraudsters.
“Plaintiff anticipates that Google, as the recipient of the DMCA Notices, will have sufficient additional information regarding the Senders of the DMCA Notices that will be the only way that Plaintiffs can identify the Defendants in this matter,” CreativeCode writes.
Indeed, when people use Google’s DMCA webform, they have to provide an email address, signature, and other pieces of information. The fraudsters likely used fake data, but Google may also have IP-addresses, linked YouTube accounts, and other metadata that could prove useful.
“With this information, Plaintiffs can further subpoena an ISP, email provider, or other technology provider who may have further identifying information regarding the sender, such as a physical address.”
According to CreativeCode, the requested information is vital, as the company has no other options to find out who the DMCA takedown senders are.
“As Doe Defendants cannot be identified, this lawsuit cannot proceed unless this Court grants Plaintiffs application to take early discovery,” the company writes in its request, asking the court to grant the application.
As mentioned earlier, the RIAA and BPI regularly ask Google to remove YTMP3.nu and Y2mate.nu URLs as well. The music companies classify YouTube rippers as anti-circumvention tools under the DMCA and Google typically honors their requests.
The music companies’ takedown notices are not covered by this lawsuit but CreativeCode rejects the notion that its sites break the law.
“The functionality of the Websites is content neutral and there are substantial non-infringing reasons why users use the Websites, such as the fact that many publishers put out videos free from copyright and invite users to freely download and copy their work and a number of other non-infringing and fair uses,” CreativeCode writes.
Whether the YouTube rippers have plans to challenge this in court, like Yout.com is doing, is unknown. For now, they prefer to take on one battle at a time.
A copy of the CreativeCode’s request, filed at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, is available here (pdf)
Update: the request has been approved with some small amendments.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.