One of today’s favored anti-piracy methods is to have Google de-index alleged pirate links from its search results. The theory is that if users don’t find content on search pages 1, 2 or 3, there’s more chance of them heading off to an official source.
The trouble is, Google’s indexes are massive and therefore return a lot of data. This results in copyright holders resorting to automated tools to identify infringing content en masse and while for some people these seem to work well (the UK’s BPI appears to have a very good record), others aren’t so good at it.
Errors get made and here at TF we like to keep an eye out for the real clangers – obviously it’s of particular interest when we become the targets. After being wrongfully accused by NBC Universal eight times in February, we had to wait until April for the world-famous Web Sheriff to ride into town.
In a DMCA notice sent on behalf of The Weinstein Company, Web Sheriff tackles dozens of domains for alleged offering the company’s content for download. However, for reasons best known to the gun-slinging Sheriff, he told Google that TF’s list of the most popular torrent sites of 2015 is infringing on his client’s copyrights.
We weren’t the only targets though. The Sheriff also tried to have three pages removed from business networking site Linkedin and one each from movie promo sites ComingSoon and Fandango (which are both legitimately advertising Weinstein movies).
This month we were targeted again, this time by Markscan, a company that made the headlines during last year’s soccer World Cup when it failed in an attempt to silence the articles of several leading news outlets.
Bad enough, of course, but made even worse by the targeting in the same notice of the official BitTorrent Inc. torrent client available for download on Softonic and another random freeware torrent client published by DVDVideoSoft.
Finally, TF was targeted a couple of days ago by anti-piracy outfit Unidam acting on behalf of Japanese talent agency and entertainment company AKS Co. Ltd. It’s clear from their complaint that they have a problem with plenty of file-hosting sites.
One of them is RyuShare, a Vietnamese-based site whose owners were arrested last year and eventually jailed. However, for some strange reason Unidam didn’t want us to get the word out on that story, instead asking Google to remove it from its search results.
While it’s pretty irritating to be wrongfully targeted by these companies, it’s important to recognize the valuable role Google plays here. Without the company’s transparency report the world would be largely blind to the sloppy actions of some anti-piracy companies.
Admittedly these outfits have a tough job, but if they have the time to send these notices out and take the money, they should take the time to check that they aren’t stepping on innocent toes.