Anti-Piracy Failure Takes Down Creative Commons Videos

An anti-piracy group has caused a storm of controversy by taking down movies it has no rights to. GVU successfully ordered video hosting site Vimeo to take down several Creative Commons videos created by a freelance journalist and an independent filmmaker. The anti-piracy tracking company hired by GVU claims that its technology failed.

An anti-piracy group working in Germany has stirred controversy by wrongfully taking down videos that neither it nor its clients hold the copyrights to.

GVU served notice and takedown demands on hosting site Vimeo for four works created by freelance journalist Mario Sixtus and another by filmmaker Alexander Lehmann.

The material by Sixtus, who focuses his reporting on Internet issues and network culture, was four episodes of Electric Reporter, all of which were released under a Creative Commons license.

Nominated for the ViralVideoAward in 2009, the video you see below – “You are a Terrorist” by independent filmmaker Alexander Lehmann – was also targeted.

However, while you can enjoy this video now, that wasn’t the case on Monday and Tuesday. Following unfounded copyright complaints by GVU, this video and four others were taken down. So how did this ridiculous situation occur?

In order to identify infringing material on the Internet, GVU hires a company called OpSec Security. The outfit says it uses automated software to identify unauthorized material and then reports violations to hosts in order to have it removed.

The errors with the Creative Commons videos occurred while OpSec Security was scanning the MonsterStream site. While it successfully detected some infringing files, it also erroneously identified non-infringing videos to which its clients do not hold the rights. Wrongful copyright complaints were sent to the host, Vimeo, who took down the videos.

While GVU acknowledged that they and OpSec got it wrong and have officially apologized, this chain of events raises some pretty serious questions.

According to OpSec technical director Petur Agustsson, there was “a bug in the calibration module” which caused the erroneous detection. What’s this? Anti-piracy technology with errors in it? Surely not?

A source familiar with recognition technology told TorrentFreak that the notion that a false positive occurred due to bad automated content recognition simply isn’t a credible explanation. Either the content scanned matches copyright works or it doesn’t. Not scanning content, however, could lead to these type of errors.

Whatever the reason, Mario Sixtus is not happy. Describing the wrongful takedowns as a massacre, Sixtus said the actions of GVU and their hired “mercenaries” amounted to “nothing less than digital vandalism”. He is seeking assurances that these errors won’t happen again.

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