Three years ago file-hosting service Hotfile countersued Warner Bros., accusing the movie studio of repeatedly abusing the DMCA takedown process.
Hotfile alleged that after giving Warner access to its systems, the studio removed hundreds of files that weren’t theirs, including games demos and Open Source software.
The case was poised to reveal how Warner Bros. anti-piracy system works and what mistakes were made by the movie studio. But last November, a few weeks before the trial was due to begin, the case was closed as part of a settlement between Hotfile and the MPAA.
The decision was a disappointment to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) who asked the court to unseal documents regarding Warner’s alleged abuse. According to the group, the public has the right to know what mistakes Warner made.
Warner Bros. objected to this request, arguing that the effectiveness of their anti-piracy technology would be undermined by a public disclosure. The movie studio asked the Court to permanently seal the records, but during an oral hearing this week U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams denied this request.
The Judge ordered Warner Bros. to hand over some of the information within ten days, and come up with a schedule for the release of all relevant documents. According to Judge Williams the public has the right to see how Warner Bros. handles DMCA takedown requests.
The EFF is happy with the ruling, and says it will help legislators to refine and improve the current DMCA process. This year both the Patent and Trademark Office and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee have looked into possible changes to the current process.
“More information about how the DMCA process has been abused – particularly through automated takedown systems with inadequate human review – will help us improve it, and hold people responsible when they use this powerful tool of censorship abusively or without caution,” EFF’s Mitch Stoltz says in a comment.
“The sealed documents from the Hotfile case will help,” he adds.
While it’s too late for Hotfile, it is definitely valuable to see what how Warner Bros. made its mistakes and how their piracy takedown technology is set up.
“We’re pleased that Judge Williams preserved the public’s right to open court proceedings here, and we are looking forward to a close analysis of the Warner documents when they are released,” Stoltz concludes.