Google Censors Alternate Domain of Seized Streaming Site, By Mistake

Google has removed the homepage of Rojadirecta.es, the alternate domain of the sports streaming site that had its .com domain seized by the US authorities earlier this year. Google's decision will be welcomed by Major League Baseball (MLB) who sent the complaint, but those who look closely will see that the removal is the result of several misunderstandings and mistakes.

rojaDMCA takedown notices are a great tool for copyright holders to limit the availability or discoverability of their content on websites such as YouTube.

Google’s search engine also gets thousands of these notices, where copyright holders ask the company to remove certain listings from its search results. Although time-consuming, the process usually works well. Sometimes, however, things can go horribly wrong.

This week Google decided to remove the homepage of the plagued sports streaming site Rojadirecta from its search index. The site already suffered its fair share of copyright troubles when the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized its .com domain early February, but apparently that didn’t mark the end of the misery.

As previously noted, Rojadirecta was an unusual target for a domain seizure because it’s owned by a Spanish company and has twice been declared legal by Spanish courts. Nevertheless, the domain was seized and Rojadirecta decided to continue doing business on the .es domain name they already had in place.

During the last few days that alternate domain was suddenly dragged into yet another copyright dispute. This time it involved Google and their decision to remove the domain from its search results.

Acting on a complaint from Major League Baseball (MLB), Google quickly removed listings for the site’s homepage. Although one can debate whether Rojadirecta – which only indexes links to streams hosted elsewhere – is infringing any copyrights, those who take a good look at the complaint will see that both MLB and Google made huge mistakes.

Firstly, the DMCA takedown notice was not directed at Google search, but at Google’s advertising platform Adsense. MLB didn’t ask for the Rojadirecta.es site to be removed from the search results at all, they simply wanted it to stop serving Google ads. And even if it was directed at Google search no listings should have been removed, since in their takedown notice MLB doesn’t point at a specific infringing location as a correctly formatted notice requires.

To make matters even worse, MLB also made a big mistake as Rojadirecta doesn’t even serve any Adsense ads. Apparently some people at MLB confused the external sites Rojadirecta links to in an iframe for the Rojadirecta site itself. The images that MLB sent with the takedown notice confirm this suspicion.

TorrentFreak spoke to the owner of Rojadirecta who was baffled by the actions of both Google and MLB. “From our experience it is clearly too easy to be removed from the search engine,” he told us in a comment.

Of course, this is not the first time that a mistake has lead to the removal of a website. In 2009, Google removed The Pirate Bay’s homepage from its search results by mistake, but this error was quickly corrected. Also, for Rojadirecta this is not the first erroneous removal either, something similar happened to the .com domain in 2007.

It’ll be interesting to see how Google responds to this error, if they do at all. Perhaps their employees should watch Google’s own “copyright school” video, perhaps they might learn a thing or two?

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