As the world’s leading search engine, Google receives millions of DMCA-style notices every week. Its internal systems, both automated and human-reviewed, then attempt to assess the validity of the notices before removing URLs from its indexes.
What these notices all have in common is that they refer to infringements that have already taken place, since that’s the nature of a takedown. However, a notice that recently appeared in Google’s Transparency Report reveals that for at least one organization, looking into the future is now also on the agenda.
The notice was sent by an anti-piracy company working on behalf of World Wrestling Entertainment, or WWE as it’s more commonly known. The notice aimed to tackle piracy of a WWE Event titled Money In The Bank 2014, which took place on June 29, 2014. However, the notice was sent to Google two days before, on June 27.
“The following links infringe on WWE’s copyrighted Pay Per View event Money In The Bank 2014, set to air this Sunday, June 29, by one or more of the following means,” the notice begins.
WWE then sets out three potential infringements.
“Providing a link to a free (pirated) stream of this event” is misleading since it’s impossible to link to an event that hasn’t aired yet. Conceivably an advance static link could have been setup to air the event come June 29, but on June 27 the event had definitely not aired, hence no piracy.
“Providing a promise of DIRECT free streaming of this event on the identified site” seems no different from the allegation made above. It’s certainly possible that some of the sites promised to illegally stream the event, but at the date of the notice that would have been impossible.
The fact that WWE resorted to telling Google that the event’s predictions show was the source material being infringed upon shows that no actual live event infringements had yet taken place.
The final claim – “Using copyrighted images, logos and celebrity photos to promote the site” – is one that carries far more weight than the two key instances of infringement alleged above. Some of the sites listed did use WWE artwork to promote their upcoming streams, but there were some notable omissions, not least the homepage of Justin.tv. Google refused to comply in this and three other instances.
The notice from WWE, which can be viewed here, illustrates the problems faced by companies airing live events. While outfits such as WWE often know where streams and links to streams will appear once an event goes live, taking them down quickly once it actually begins may not always go as smoothly as they would like.
While attempts at a pro-active DMCA-style notice like this might work on a small scale, it’s not difficult to imagine the chaos that would ensue if all rightsholders tried to have unauthorized content removed before it even appeared online.