On January 1, 2024, TorrentFreak published a review of the wrongful DMCA notices filed against us in 2023, either directly via email or at Google demanding deindexing of our articles.
Our small request for 2024 was not unreasonable: stop sending us bogus copyright notices. At the start of 2023, anti-piracy outfits managed to leave us alone for almost three weeks but this year couldn’t manage 24 hours. On January 2, we received another bogus complaint from DigiGuardians, followed by a second on January 3, and four more in the space of one minute on Thursday.
In total the notices demand the removal of 206 URLs that allegedly link to pirated movies. We can’t help in any way; none of the links have anything to do with us, they’re not even on our domain. South American news site Hollogram TV informs TF that their copyright complaint problems relate to just two URLs, but the consequences for them could be much more severe.
Streaming News and Reviews
Reaching out to a South American audience, Hollogram TV launched in 2019 and today covers all aspects of the streaming market. Today’s front page has articles about Roku, Amazon Music, Crunchyroll, PlutoTV, and HBO Max, among others, plus a handful of piracy-related stories that inevitably play a role in the sector.
On January 2, the administrator of Hollogram found that access to various functions on Facebook had been limited due to a copyright complaint. Filed by India-based anti-piracy outfit Markscan, the complaint listed two posts on Facebook claiming they both infringe IP rights owned by Plex GmBH, one of the companies behind the client/server media system of the same name.
Both posts, allegedly Facebook shares of articles previously published on the main Hollogram site, were deleted by Facebook, pushing Hollogram towards repeat infringer status and potentially even a ban.
Stories like these are all too common, but several factors convinced us to take a much closer look; Markscan involvement in yet another controversial takedown, infringement allegations against news reports, the possibility that Plex targeted the articles for non-copyright reasons, and if we don’t dig into these things, who will?
Markscan is currently filing seemingly endless requests on behalf of Plex against huge numbers of URLs, requesting deindexing from Google search under trademark law. Whether sites offer clean downloads of Plex, modified versions, or simply use the Plex logo for other reasons, takedowns like these are the end result (1,2,3,4,5,6).
A cursory review of these complaints does indeed reveal clear instances of trademark infringement due to the presence of Plex marks in scenarios where that’s likely to cause consumer confusion. However, there’s also no shortage of takedowns that make little sense under any IP law.
For example, GitHub user ‘axlecrusher’ maintains a repo containing links to old installers for Plex Media Server. Every URL links to the official software installers hosted on the official Plex.tv domain, but the repo was reported for infringement nonetheless.
So, copyright infringement against Hollogram TV, potential trademark infringement, or something else?
Let’s Talk About Plex
In an article published on the main site this week, Hollogram explained that the articles taken down from Facebook were actually news reports featuring Plex. TorrentFreak took a closer look and found that to be quite the understatement. Both articles reported positive news related to Plex, based on information released to the media by Plex itself.
Around the dates the articles were published, in November 2021 and August 2022 respectively, dozens of substantially similar articles on a similar number of sites were reporting exactly the same news.
Indeed, both of the articles published by Hollogram (originals in Spanish, translated below) cite other publications as the source; Plex adds CiNDiE Lite and adds 200 channels worldwide (Cord Cutters News) and Plex News: New Music Channels and Spanish Channel for the United States (Fierce Video)
At this point we were fairly confident that the articles as they appear on Hollogram do not infringe copyright and the likelihood of a successful trademark claim would be a) vanishingly small and b) convince news sites to write about almost anything else in future.
Plex definitely wouldn’t want that yet the articles were still taken down by MarkScan.
Plex: Articles on Hollogram ‘Seem Fine’
While seeking several pieces of additional information directly from Plex on Thursday, we took the opportunity to share the original articles published on Hollogram. In advance of an official statement, a provisional brief comment indicated that the articles “seem fine.” Interesting.
However, we were further informed that the actual Facebook posts “were flagged for a reason” but one that couldn’t be immediately confirmed because the posts had been taken down from Facebook. Plex suggested that MarkScan might have the relevant information, but that could take 24 hours to arrive, i.e late on Friday, just before this article was published.
Since stories have a tendency to die when waiting for comments late on Fridays, we needed to obtain at least two more things; evidence of the posts showing how they appeared on Facebook and something official to show why the posts were deleted.
Using the Google Search cache (archive copy) we managed to recover one of the Facebook posts, minus the image. Using Google Image’s cache we were able to recover the missing image and prove it appeared in the Facebook post. We also obtained the takedown notification from Facebook which clearly states that a copyright claim was the culprit.
When Plex obtains the information from MarkScan on the second article, we’ll post an update here. In any event, it seems unlikely that a copyright claim would be the suitable mechanism for these takedowns.
Live update: No response from Plex but we have now obtained the Facebook notifications related to the takedown of the second article. Once again, the article was removed for allegedly infringing Plex copyrights.
At this point one begins to question whether a different dispute fueled these takedowns. Strangely, there’s a suggestion that may even be the case.
Hollogram informs TF that in a message on Facebook, MarkScan suggested that the site was targeted because it “promotes copyright infringing services.” Hollogram vehemently denies that allegation but even if that was true, DMCA takedown notices need to be very specific in respect of the content allegedly infringed, and the location of the allegedly infringing content.
We’ll reserve judgment for now but these posts/articles show no signs of copyright infringement and that’s a real concern.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.