Sending DMCA takedown notices in bulk has become increasingly fashionable during recent years but thanks to the database at Chilling Effects, we are able to see who is sending what to whom. As concerns mount over the amount of checking carried out before items are taken down, it appears that Fox has managed to get Google to delist DMCA complaints on Chilling Effects, which were originally sent by Fox themselves and submitted to Chilling Effects by Google.
The Chilling Effects web archive was founded in 2001 as a response to the usually secretive practice of sending so-called ‘takedown notices’ to have content removed from the web. This, according to the activists involved, was having a ‘chilling effect’ on free speech.
In a show of openness, big companies such as Google, Yahoo, Twitter and Digg began sending DMCA takedown notices they received to Chilling Effects. In 2010 the clearing house received more than 12,000 such cease-and-desist notices which in turn contained thousands of links to content to be removed. At times this archive makes fascinating reading, as highlighted today by occasional TorrentFreak contributor SearchFreak.
The URL http://chillingeffects.org/dmca512c/notice.cgi?NoticeID=31773 shows a DMCA notice sent by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation to Google which contains a list of URLs which allegedly link to the movie Avatar. Fox demanded that Google should take them all down from its index, which it appears to have done.
However, if one enters this URL into a Google search, the only results listed are where other pages refer to this URL. The actual page with this URL is nowhere to be found. Indeed, as can be seen from the screenshot below, Google has removed the result due to a DMCA takedown complaint.
Fortunately we can see what this complaint was about and who sent it by, ironically, going to ChillingEffects. The DMCA complaint in question was sent by Fox to Google and contains dozens of links its anti-piracy division has culled from the web, allegedly linking to their movie Avatar.
However, deep into the complaint Fox has demanded that Google take down links to two pages on Chilling Effects (1) (2). Their crime? Containing links to the Avatar movie.
So, let’s have a little recap since this is becoming like an episode from Soap.
Chilling Effects is setup to stop the ‘chilling effects’ of Internet censorship. Google sees this as a good thing and sends takedown requests it receives to be added to the database.
Fox sends takedown requests to Google for pages which the company says contain links to material it holds the copyright to. Those pages include those on Chilling Effects which show which links Fox wants taken down.
Google delists the Chilling Effects pages from its search engine, thus completing the circle and defeating the very reason Chilling Effects was set up for in the first place.
Fox has repeated this somewhat ridiculous ‘error’ several times (1) (2) (3) (4) but they are not on their own. It seems that the UFC have also been trying to have ChillingEffects notices removed (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) but currently they remain listed by Google.
While the Fox takedowns happened a while ago, those sent by UFC are just a few weeks old. Let’s hope that when receiving these requests in future Google simply throws them in the trash, where they belong.