Copyright Holders Ask Google to Block Site-Blocking Notifications

Opinion

Every day automated 'bots' browse the Internet looking for infringing content, firing millions of takedown notices in response. This can sometimes lead to confusing mistakes, such as when copyright holders target UK ISP site blocking notifications.

Following a series of High Court orders, UK Internet providers now block access to thousands of pirate domain names.

If prospective pirates try to access these sites, they are presented with a blocking notification instead.

Virgin Media, for example, shows the following message to its subscribers.

“Virgin Media has received an order from the High Court requiring us to prevent access to this site.”

While these type of messages are crystal clear to the general public, they appear to cause confusion among copyright holders. Or more likely, among the automated takedown tools they use.

This week we stumbled upon an unusual request from the anti-piracy group RipBlock, sent on behalf of Amorphous Music. The notice in question targets several links, but also the blocking page of Virgin Media, as seen below.

Virgin takedown

Needless to say, Virgin’s blocking notification doesn’t list any infringing material. Perhaps RipBlock’s monitoring tool is using a Virgin Media connection, entering the notification in their system instead of the URL of a pirate site?

While that seems plausible, it would mean that the UK company is using more than one ISP, as it also frequently reports the blocking notifications of Sky in its takedown requests.

In any case, it’s clear that the company doesn’t check its submissions very carefully, as the same URLs are listed in dozens of DMCA notices.

Sky takedown

Interestingly, this kind of mistake is not unique to RipBlock. Another UK company, Leak Delete, asked Google to remove BT’s blocking page from its search results with a similar takedown notice.

BT’s “ukispcourtorders.co.uk” page provides a list of blocked sites and no infringing content. Nonetheless, Leak Delete has targeted it repeatedly according to Google’s transparency report.

BT takedown

In situations like this, we can see how erroneous takedown claims can easily lead to over-blocking. If blocking requests are used to block access to site blocking notifications, anything can be targeted.

It’s good to know that, despite receiving millions of requests per day, Google is still able to spot most of these flaws.

The search giant can’t catch them all though. As a result, BT’s blocking notification is no longer listed in the search engine.

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