Every day, copyright holders send out millions of takedown notices to various services, hoping to protect their works.
While most of these requests are legitimate, the process is also being abused. Google prominently features examples of such dubious DMCA requests in its transparency report.
This week we were contacted by the owner of YTS.me after he noticed some unusual activity. In recent weeks his domain name has been targeted with a series of takedown notices from rather unusual people.
Senders with names such as Niklas Glockner, Michelle Williams, Maria Baader, Stefan Kuefer, Anja Herzog, and Markus Ostermann asked Google to remove thousands of YTS.me URLs.
Every notice lists just one movie title, but hundreds of links, most of which have nothing to do with the movie in question.
These submitters are all relatively new and there is no sign that they are authorized by the applicable copyright holder. This, and the long list of irrelevant URLs suggest that these DMCA notices are abusive.
The owner of YTS.me believes that the senders have a clear motive. The purpose of the notices is to remove well-ranked pages and push the targeted sites down in Google’s search results.
“These all are fake people names submitting fake DMCA complaints and are not authorized to submit complaints,” the YTS.me operator notes.
“Even if they are real people they would have submitted, or are authorized to submit, complaints for only a few titles. Instead, they submit fake complaints and submit all the URLs possible on our website to degrade its ranking.”
The question that remains is, who is responsible for these notices? Looking at the list of sites that are targeted by these abusive senders we see a pattern emerge. They all target copycats of defunct sites such as YTS and ExtraTorrent.
This leads the YTS.me operator to the conclusion that one of its main competitors is sending these notices. While there is no hard evidence, it seems plausible that another YTS copycat is attempting to take the competition out of Google’s search results to gain more exposure itself.
YTS.me has a good idea of who the perpetrator(s) are – a person or group that also operates several other copycat sites. Thus far there’s no bulletproof evidence though, but it’s a likely explanation.
In any case, the DMCA takedown requests are definitely out of order and warrant further investigation by Google.