This week’s facepalm moment arrives courtesy of IP Arrow, an anti-piracy outfit working on behalf of clients including California-based movie company Lionsgate.
For some time, IP Arrow has been sending takedown notices to Google asking it to delist thousands of ‘pirate’ URLs for the movie Mechanic: Resurrection. In the main, the company appears to have done a good job, but like so many similar operations, at times it struggles to tell the difference between pirate copies of a movie and completely non-infringing content.
This week, the operator of troll defense blog Fight Copyright Trolls pointed out to fellow troll defenders DieTrollDie that IP Arrow had reported the site to Google for being a copyright infringer, which it most clearly is not.
The problem began in January when DieTrollDie (DTD) published an article about numerous trolling cases filed by ME2 Productions, the company that holds rights to Mechanic: Resurrection.
ME2 has been suing BitTorrent users all over the United States, so the cases naturally came to the attention of DTD, which offered its usual critique of the company’s actions thus far. However, in explaining certain flaws in some cases, the site referenced the hash value (B5201111ACEC1E5025DE3087B15DF84612C02579) of one of the pirate copies of Mechanic: Resurrection floating about on the Internet.
This was enough for IP Arrows’ bots to flag DTD as a pirate site and report it to Google. While this was probably a simple error, this is an extremely sensitive area so it’s easy to see how some might view the takedown as an attempt to silence ME2’s critics.
Certainly, that’s the view of DTD’s operator, who informs TF that he was surprised that IP Arrow had targeted his site.
“I was a bit surprised that IP Arrow asked Google to remove the listing of one of my pages. I knew there was absolutely no reason to justify it,” he told TF.
“They claim that they wanted the links removed because, ‘These links are facilitating piracy of my client’s work.’ What they actually wanted removed was one of the ‘Tags’ I used to index an article concerning the BT copyright troll cases for Mechanic: Resurrection.”
But whatever the conclusion, the problems don’t stop there. The same takedown notice filed against DTD makes matters worse by also targeting yet another website setup to help people targeted by copyright trolls.
Troll-Defense.com is operated by Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus, a Washington law firm that’s extremely unlikely to be infringing upon Lionsgate or ME2 copyrights. Nevertheless, the site was also reported to Google for copyright infringement.
Bizarrely, in each case the target of the infringement notices were court papers referencing ME2’s Mechanic: Resurrection cases against alleged copyright infringers. As in the reporting of DTD, it doesn’t look good that sites offering legal help to citizens are being targeted by companies with connections to the content in question.
“At first I thought IP Arrow was too stupid to understand what a hash file is. But after seeing that they also tried to remove search listings to publically available court documents, it looks like an effort to hide information concerning their copyright trolling operation,” DTD’s operator says.
“They are probably of the opinion that if you throw enough crap at a target, something is eventually going to stick.”
DTD also expressed concern that considering the volumes of notices being received by Google, it’s likely that innocent sites will fall victim to errors like these. It turns out that those concerns are well founded.
This hasn’t pleased lawyer Benjamin Justus, who operates the site for Lybeck, Pedreira & Justus.
“With courts and consumers already concerned that mass copyright suits by ME2 and its affiliates are being pursued in arbitrary fashion, I think that ME2’s agents’ targeting innocent parties with baseless takedown notices will only further the skepticism that these companies are not engaged in legitimate enforcement efforts,” he concludes.