Vimeo Intervenes to Fix ‘Pixels’ DMCA Disaster

Last week an anti-piracy company aiming to protect the movie 'Pixels' wrongfully took down several unrelated videos from Vimeo, including one that actually inspired the Columbia movie. Vimeo now informs TorrentFreak that the company has intervened and after speaking with the anti-piracy outfit involved, all affected videos have been reinstated.

vimeoAfter watching the situation play out during last week, this past weekend TF published an article detailing a disastrous copyright notice.

Working on behalf of Columbia Pictures, UK-based anti-piracy outfit Entura International sent an unfortunate DMCA notice to Vimeo demanding that the video hosting site take down several works that allegedly infringed their client’s copyrights. Trouble was, none of them did. In fact, their only crime was to have the word ‘Pixels’ in their titles.

Quite remarkably, among the videos taken down was an award-winning movie by Patrick Jean. Published in 2010 and also titled Pixels, this was the work that actually inspired Columbia’s movie. In fact, Jean even has a credit in Pixels 2015.

Behind the scenes TorrentFreak was in discussion with one of the affected parties. Concerned about a legal process they had little experience of, they asked to remain off the record. But what became clear is that while Entura were permitted to issue a complaint and take down content immediately, the counter-notice procedure was much more drawn out. In fact, several days later no videos had been restored.

Yesterday, however, all that changed. Vimeo informs TorrentFreak that after becoming aware of serious issues with Entura’s DMCA notice, the video hosting company decided to intervene.

“Late last week, Vimeo removed certain videos pursuant to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Entura International claiming that the videos contained copyrighted content from the film Pixels,” Vimeo told TF.

“After users informed us that their videos did not contain any Pixels content, we reached out to Entura. Entura has since withdrawn its takedown notice. As a result, we have now restored the affected videos.”

A check of all ten affected videos reveals that they have indeed been restored to their former glory, which is obviously very good news for the parties involved. However, Vimeo’s response to the problem – i.e getting directly involved – is somewhat unique.

Mostly users are left to fend for themselves when a wrongful complaint is filed against their account. Does this interaction with Entura signal a new approach by Vimeo and can we expect similar action in future?

“We handle DMCA notices on a case-by-case basis,” Vimeo told us.

“It’s our policy to inform users of their rights and give them the ability to file a counter-notice or reach out to the complaining party to request that a notice be withdrawn. In this case, it appeared that the complaining party had made a mistake, so we reached out.”

But while Vimeo is to be commended for taking action, the system remains flawed.

Without providing any evidence, Entura was not only able to have ten entirely non-infringing videos removed from the service, but in response Vimeo issued each of its affected customers with a ‘strike’ against their account. If the users were to receive a couple more of these they could be classified as serial offenders and find themselves banned from Vimeo altogether.

While acknowledging that a repeat infringer policy is considered important for U.S.-based services, we put it to Vimeo that there might be a better way to deal with ‘strikes’. Perhaps delaying the issuing of a strike against a customer account until they’ve been given a chance to appeal (thereby giving them the benefit of the doubt) might be an option?

“To answer your other question, when a video is restored — whether due to a counter-notice or the withdrawal of a DMCA notice — the associated strike on the member’s account is removed,” Vimeo said.

So, in summary, anti-piracy companies issuing wrongful takedowns can easily have a strike placed against a user’s account, but the onus remains on the user to fight his corner in order to have the strike removed. That’s not always straightforward.

While things ended well in this case, there can be little doubt that less publicized cases on Vimeo, YouTube and dozens of other services will end badly, with users picking up strikes they don’t deserve. Thanks to ChillingEffects, however, many of the problems are made public and can be tackled. Expect more in the future – many more.

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