The homepage of the popular torrent search engine “H33t” has been removed from Google after cable network HBO sent a DMCA takedown request for the series Band of Brothers. Google honored the request and has de-listed h33t.com from its search results. H33t’s owner is not pleased with this latest censorship attempt and informs TorrentFreak that he will submit a counterclaim to get the homepage reinstated.
Every week copyright holders send millions of DMCA takedown notices to Google, hoping to make pirated movies and music harder to find.
As a result more that 100 million links to copyright-infringing content are no longer available through Google’s search results. One of the latest additions to this growing list is the homepage of H33t, one of the top 10 most visited torrent sites.
Those who type “h33t” into the Google search box will see that the homepage listing for the site has disappeared. At the bottom of the page Google explains that the listing was removed following a DMCA notice, which came from the cable network HBO.
In the notice HBO asks Google to remove thousands of links pointing (in)directly to their shows. The H33t homepage is listed under “Band of Brothers,” which was probably listed there at one point, but has since been replaced by other links.
HBO lists h33t
TorrentFreak caught up with H33t’s owner, who is not happy with the de-listing by Google. However, he also tells us that H33t is not being harmed too much by the homepage removal, as only a tiny fraction of his visitors use Google to access his site.
“Considering possible damage to the site, historically H33t has not been driven by search traffic. About 1 out of 10 people use Google in a search that ultimately brings them to H33t. These are not random searches, people are searching for specific content and clicking a link that brings them directly to the details page of that content,” H33t’s owner says.
“These people are not interested in the homepage. If you know the name H33t then you already know the site, you don’t just accidentally type “h33t” then discover the site’s homepage. You also cannot discover H33t by searching for “torrents downloads whatever” because we were never high ranked for those terms,” he adds.
That doesn’t mean that H33t is going to let this pass. The site’s owner plans to take a stand, if only to defend his principles and to voice his growing concerns over how the DMCA notification system operates.
“I cannot ignore this latest censorship just because it doesn’t particularly make much of a difference to me and my site. The inversion of the burden of proof, H33t is guilty before trial, is a serious issue, and it is so easily done as Daniel Nazer of EFF said this year: ‘The takedown procedure of the DMCA provides a quick, cheap, extra-judicial way to get speech removed from the internet’,” he tells TorrentFreak.
In addition to freedom of speech issues the takedown procedures have also become quite costly for site owners, who have to employ personnel to go over them. Therefore H33t charges $50 per takedown on its own site.
“Freedom of information, free speech, human rights are wonderful concepts but have little meaning until they are no longer there. Money is like that, money doesn’t matter until you don’t have any. For the anti-sharing lobby it is all about the money,” H33t’s owner explains.
“The matter of costs is central, with the DMCA the costs are all ours, we pay the ultimate price as a society, we pay for their broken business model that needs propping up by censorship and our loss of rights.”
For the HBO notice H33t will send a counter-notification, but whether that will be successful has yet to be seen. There are still other infringing links present on the homepage and Google has previously refused to reinstate sites in a similar position.
Whatever Google decides, H33t’s owner doesn’t seem particularly worried.
“We shall see what happens but I am not going to get upset if the homepage isn’t reinstated. As John Gilmore said way back in 1993, ‘The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it’.”
“H33t is not in the race to be the biggest baddest torrent site, it is just me and a bunch of like-minded friends with attitude. Millions and millions of friends. You know what? Getting knocked off Google might just be our passing grade in relevance.”
“We are relevant! Fukin Awesome,” H33t’s owner concludes.