Warner Bros Files Takedown Notice Against Itself

Self-sabotage is one thing. Filing a takedown notice under the Digital Millennial Copyright Act (DMCA) against your own website is something else entirely.

Over the weekend, Warner Brothers filed a takedown notice under the DMCA against a website the company believed was in violation of the nearly 20-year-old law governing the reposting and reuse of copyrighted material on the internet. This is the same law intended to keep pirated and unauthorized versions of songs off YouTube, illegally downloaded scenes or entire portions of unreleased films off torrent sites and generally meant to protect artists. Allegedly. (That’s a whole different topic of conversation you can read more about here, here and here, among others.)

The problem is, the offended website was another address owned by the company. Really.

TorrentFreak broke the news Sunday, explaining how studios will contact Google to have material taken down from YouTube or other sites under the search engine’s wide reach that might be illegally posted.  Warner Bros. has been particularly aggressive, issuing over four million notices to Google for “allegedly infringing URLs” where its copyrighted material has been found.

“We use the term allegedly with good reason, as not all of the reports are accurate. In fact, this week we stumbled upon recent takedown requests that have some glaring errors,” TorrentFreak wrote. “With help from its anti-piracy partner Vobile, Warner asked Google to censor several of its own URLs from the search engine.

Among the examples unearthed by TorrentFreak are the official page for the 2008 blockbuster The Dark Knight and another for the 1999 hit The Matrix. (That bit’s at least a little ironic, right?)

Dark Knight
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“The apparent ‘self-censorship’ is not a one-off mistake either,” the website continues. “A few days earlier, a similar DMCA takedown notice targeted Warner’s website, claiming that the official page for The Lucky One is infringing Warner’s copyrights. Of course, Warner only hurts itself with these erroneous takedown requests. Unfortunately, however, Warnerbros.com is not the only ‘legitimate’ domain that’s being targeted,”

The Matrix
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Among the other pages targeted by Warner Bros and issued takedown notices? Amazon, where DVDs are sold, the IMDB page for The Dark Knight and others. Google didn’t take those websites down, realizing that Warner Bros had probably made a mistake.

As TorrentFreak’s Ernesto van der Sar tells the BBC, it’s common for companies like Warner Bros to use software to find illegally posted links and Vobile, in particular, is good at hunting them down. According to Google’s own recent antipiracy and transparency report, Vobile has issued more than 13 million links for investigation and removal. And for what it’s worth, Warner Bros isn’t alone—Entura International reported a link on behalf of Lionsgate for the movie London Has Fallen that had been found on the Micrsoft download store website.

“Piracy monitoring firms often use automated systems to find and report copyright infringing websites,” van der Sar explains. “I’m fairly certain that this happened here as well, considering the obvious mistakes that were made,” he says about the Warner Bros takedown notices.

TechDirt puts things in perspective for Warner Bros and the DMCA: “Many of the legacy industry players, including Warner Bros and the MPAA (Motion Picture Academy of America) who represent WB, have been pushing very heavily for a revamp of the DMCA that would include a ‘notice and staydown’ provision—such that once a copyright holder representative sent a notice claiming a work was infringing, platforms would basically be required to block that content from ever appearing again. In response, many of us have pointed out just how bad companies like Warner Bros are at issuing takedowns, and we’re told that such mistakes are rare. But they’re not rare. We see them all the time. And if notice and staydown were in place, it could create all sorts of problems.

Further, companies like Warner Bros and others repeatedly say it’s Google that’s falling short when it comes to protecting artists and films. “If it’s so ‘obvious’ why can’t WB get its act together and not take down its own sites?,” Techdirt asks. “Perhaps it isn’t so obvious after all and perhaps we shouldn’t make copyright policies based on the bogus claims of companies so clueless that they’re issuing DMCA takedowns on their own websites or other official channels?”

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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