The DMCA takedown process allows copyright holders to report infringing content and have it removed or taken down.
It is a powerful tool that takes millions of URLs and links offline every day. In most cases, this happens for a good reason, but some takedown efforts are questionable.
DMCA Takedown Abuse
In recent years there have been numerous examples of clear abuse and impersonations, as revealed through Google’s transparency report. Abuse of the DMCA is prohibited by law and can result in legal action; Bungie’s $7.7 million lawsuit against an alleged fraudster is one example.
Dubious or erroneous takedown notices are not harmless. Many millions of URLs have already been ‘mistakenly’ flagged and in some cases the reported links were actually removed from Google’s search results.
YTMP3.nu is of the sites that sees itself as a victim of bogus takedown notices. The YouTube ripper is frequently targeted by music industry groups such as the BPI and RIAA, who accuse it of violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision. However, it also appears to be targeted by one or more competitors.
The site has spotted several questionable notices that urge Google to remove its URLs, without a proper basis. According to YTMP3.nu, this is the work of rivals who want to remove YTMP3 from search results, in order to improve their own ranking.
Cease and Desist
This activity has been a growing source of frustration for YTMP3.nu’s operator. To put an end to the abuse, the YouTube ripper asked its lawyer to send a cease and desist and preservation demand to Google.
According to the letter, YTMP3.nu is willing to take legal action against the alleged fraudsters. In addition, it reserves the right to take further steps against Google if its demands are not met within the stated deadline.
“We write to you on behalf of Our Client because it appears that Google has become an unwitting tool used by third-parties to engage in fraudulent and unfair business practices that are causing Our Client significant damages,” the letter starts.
“Our Client is prepared to take immediate legal action against these third parties and, unless Google complies with Our Client’s demands herein, Our Client will consider Google to be acting in concert with these third parties in their fraudulent activities and reserves all rights as against Google.”
The letter puts Google on notice, claiming that its DMCA takedown process is being used for false and fraudulent takedown notices. According to YTMP3.nu, these are sent by competitors instead of legitimate rightsholders.
One of the highlighted takedown requests was sent under the name “Hale Hoola Hamakua”. This person, who apparently resides in Jamaica, lists a track by Damian & Stephen Marley as the copyrighted work, but there’s no evidence that the sender is indeed the rightsholder.
In addition, YTMP3 points out that the reported links don’t identify a specific copyrighted work on the site. Instead, the notice asks Google to delist the site’s homepage.
The second notice highlighted in the letter doesn’t even explain what content is supposedly being infringed. Instead, a company called “DMCA Defense” simply asks Google to remove YTMP3.nu’s front page without a reason.
No Legal Basis
The YouTube ripper continues by noting that there is no legal basis for these takedown notices, even if they are being sent by legitimate rightsholders.
YTMP3 states that it merely offers a general-purpose downloading tool, that automates a process that can be carried out with any regular web browser. A similar argument was used by Yout.com in its legal dispute with the RIAA, which is currently under appeal.
Google apparently does nothing to verify whether the senders are actually rightsholders, the letter adds, which makes it potentially liable for the abusive activity.
“By knowingly allowing, accepting, and processing fraudulent takedown notices, especially after specific notice, Google is aiding and abetting the fraud of the submitters of the notices and subjecting itself to potential liability,” the letter notes.
YTMP3 Requests DMCA Sender Verification
To put a halt to the fraudulent activity, YTMP3.nu wants Google to start verifying the identities of DMCA notice senders before it takes action. This includes the sender’s name, email address, and IP address.
On top of that, the YouTube ripper requests an immediate litigation hold for all information related to takedown notices that target YTMP3.nu URLs. That information may be used in follow-up legal proceedings. The letter gives Google 10 days to implement both requested steps.
YTMP3.nu is represented by Boston Law Group attorney Val Gurvits, who is also part of Yout.com’s defense team, which challenges the legitimacy of the RIAA’s claim that YouTube rippers violate the DMCA. The attorney also represented the operator of YouTube rippers FLVto and 2Conv.
A copy of the full cease and desist letter, directed at Google’s Copyright Manager, is available here (pdf).