Company That Issued Bogus Takedown Says It Was All A Mistake, Apologizes
from the could-do-better dept
So, yesterday, as you may have heard, we wrote about how a totally bogus DMCA takedown notice, coming from an “anti-piracy” firm called Armovore, deleted a key Techdirt blog post about SOPA/PIPA from Google’s search results. That post apparently got some attention within Google, who kicked off an expedited review and reinstated our site and a few others. Soon after that, we got a couple emails from folks at Armovore, and they also posted some comments to the site, in which they apologized, and said that it was an “early” version of the technology. To their credit, they “accept full responsibility for the mistake” and insist that while that takedown was an automated keyword-based effort, they now only do manual takedowns. They even apologized that multiple people reached out to apologize.
Of course, the apology still involved a few statements that suggested they were upset we even wrote the story, saying it was too “one-sided.” The first email from the company also suggested that we shouldn’t be annoyed any more since the story was added back to Google (ignoring that it wasn’t for a month). They also say they haven’t made any money (“aside from a single donation”) and the founder said via email: “I don’t feel comfortable charging anyone for an unfinished product.” That’s interesting, because apparently while he doesn’t feel comfortable charging, he didn’t seem to have much of a problem issuing a whole bunch of bogus takedowns with it, apparently without manual review, despite signing a letter that promises, under penalty of perjury, that the takedowns are accurate.
All that said, everyone makes mistakes, and even though this one was pretty egregious and involved our own content on a key post being taken out of Google for over a month, we’ll accept their apology and move on. I think it would be smart and reasonable for whoever is behind Armovore to make a public donation to Public Citizen and EFF, but that’s up to them to decide.
I’ll also note that our situation was obviously nowhere near as bad as the various domains that have been incorrectly seized and shut down by ICE with no due process, at the request of the RIAA and the MPAA… and those sites have yet to receive any apology. And, in some cases, the sites are still being held by the government, despite a requirement that the government either give the domains back or file for forfeiture (it’s done neither). Those sites deserve an apology from the RIAA, the MPAA, ICE and the DOJ and haven’t received any.
Finally, what this incident really shows is just how incredibly easy it is to suppress speech under today’s copyright laws. Just the fact that an automated system was able to do this should be ringing alarm bells from here to DC and back about some pretty serious problems with today’s DMCA takedown process that is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of operation (as we’ve now seen first hand). Not only should this be a clear warning that we should not be expanding such powers via something like SOPA or PIPA, where the penalties are much, much greater, but that we should revisit the whole idea of a system that allows content to be taken completely offline prior to any chance for those falsely accused to respond. We shouldn’t be expanding copyright law, we should be rolling it back to prevent abuses like this, even if they are “mistakes.” A system that allows mistakes like this is a broken system.