Mystery Over Fake Section 1201 Takedown Claims Sent By 'Video Industry Association of America' Deepens

from the no-such-agency dept

It was only a week or so ago that we discussed the latest example of the type of fake DMCA notices that Google gets to delist certain URLs from search results. In this instance, a couple of factors made these DMCA notices even more problematic than usual. For starters, they claim to be coming from the U.S. Copyright Office, which very much does not send in DMCA notices like this. On top of that, the notices claim they are being sent by the U.S. Copyright Office on behalf of the Video Industry Association of America which, as I noted in my original post, doesn’t seem to actually exist. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, these are notices for Section 1201 claims, which deal with anti-circumvention aspects of copyright law, that target mostly stream-ripping sites and sites that cover or guide legit uses of those sites. Notably, Google does not have an appeal process for 1201 notices, leaving anyone who got delisted basically screwed.

Well, now the mystery somewhat deepens. The Section 1201 DMCA notices have continued to flood Google, but now they are being supposedly sent directly by the Video Industry Association of America, with whoever is sending these dropping the pretense that they’re coming from the US Copyright Office. But that isn’t actually clearing much up other than to highlight, again, that the organization doesn’t actually exist and is coming from Russia.

A mysterious group called the ‘Video Industry Association of America’ is trying to wipe the homepages of dozens of reputable sites from Google search. The targets, which stand accused of violating the DMCA’s anti-circumvention policy, include Verizon, Pinterest, and Engadget. Google says that it’s aware of these fraudulent notices but, thus far, they are not without damage.

The ‘American’ organization starts one request off in Russian and finds it hard to construct proper English sentences. In another notice, it complains of sites and apps that circumvent the copyright protection of streaming services, while classifying these as “software cracks.” Things get even more problematic when we look at the URLs that are reported. While these include tools such as DVDFab and YouTube-rippers, which some rightsholders see as problematic, various legitimate sites are targeted as well.

So what’s going on here? Well, it seems that whoever is behind these DMCA notices is taking shotgun approach to them. Anything that has to do with providing or informing the public on matters of stream-ripping, legit or otherwise, are being targeted. Plenty of other tech news organizations have been targeted as well, such as Engadget and CNET. Most of the takedown requests have gone ignored by Google, but several have not. Many smaller tech sites have been delisted as a result of all this.

For at least one of the sites, Google has acknowledged that the delist request was not legit, but also said there is no current appeals process.

Fossbytes reported the issue to Google, which informed the site that there is no official counter-notification process for these anti-circumvention takedowns. As such, the URLs remain deindexed for now.

“There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs,” Google replied, requesting a detailed explanation from the site.

Meaning the onus is still on the victims of this crap to get themselves re-listed. And, once TorrentFreak got its hands on a copy of the takedown request, it illuminates how blatantly fraudulent all of this is.

This reveals some interesting details that are not available in the Lumen database, including the name, email address, and geolocation of the ‘Video Industry Association of America’ representative.

As can be seen above, the sender is actually located in Russia and identifies itself as “Wolf Fang,” which isn’t a typical name, not even in Russia. The email address, which we won’t publish, comes from Gmail and references another animal’s fangs.

Again, what’s going on here? Is this some coordinated Russian effort to delist a bunch of prominent or otherwise American news sites? Not likely. Instead, this is more likely a form of the kind of fraud-based attack we’ve seen from overseas sites that abuse the DMCA process in order to take down both its competitors and references to competitors wherever possible.

For now, it remains a mystery who’s behind these notices. It wouldn’t surprise us if the “Video Industry Association of America’ is actually a direct competitor of the stream-ripping and DRM circumvention tools that are reported.

This is a strategy we have seen several times in the past. A competitor targets URLs from competing apps and sites, so their own site will end up higher in Google’s search results.

In other words, the only real good these bullshit DMCA notices are doing is to further highlight the wide open avenues for fraud and abuse in our current DMCA takedown process.

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Companies: google, video industry association of america

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Comments on “Mystery Over Fake Section 1201 Takedown Claims Sent By 'Video Industry Association of America' Deepens”

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82 Comments
That One Guysays:

'Honest, our hands are tied.'

?There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs,? Google replied, requesting a detailed explanation from the site.

Yeah no, if they know the claims are bogus and are still taking them down and keeping them down at that point that’s entirely on Google. They don’t have to go through a process they could simply reinstate the links due to them having been taken down by fraudulent notices, they’re simply refusing to do so.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

Legally Google do have to go through the process, as the DMCA doesn’t have a good faith exception for hosts they only get safe harbour protections when they take content down.

Every time they refuse to action a request (even a bogus one) it opens them up to liability, as the DMCA (and the courts) don’t care if a notice is valid just that one has been sent.

And if the Music Industry keep on getting wins against US ISP’s I expect it won’t be long before they sue Google the next time they reject some of their takedown notices.

Though if I was Google I’d action all takedown notices and when someone complains point out the law required them to do so as that is the best chance the DMCA will get rewritten and not in an even more one-sided way.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

It would be one thing if the claims were questionable, if the sender might have the rights they are claiming but when it becomes obvious that they most certainly do not then Google doesn’t have to do anything, neither take the links down nor keep them down and therefore treat the original claim as legitimate. Sure they could be sued for it but I imagine any judge that would buy the ‘even fraudulent claims still count and need to be honored'(looking at you judge in the Cox case) would buy any argument that let them stick it to those infernal tech companies.

Translating it into the physical world is going to be rough but I suppose it would be like if I claimed something in your yard was mine and just took it, you went to the police to get the property back and even after it becomes crystal clear after the fact that I do not have ownership over the item them claiming that the original transfer of ownership stands because there’s no official ‘getting your stuff back’ process if someone prefaces their theft by claiming to be the rightful owner.

Bobvioussays:

Re: Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

For at least one of the sites, Google has acknowledged that the delist request was not legit, but also said there is no current appeals process.

It’s a game. Which is exactly why these giblet-fondlers are using 1201. They are deliberately using processes with maximum negative impact on the targets, knowing that the kind of review that these stupid laws should have had during "due diligence" did not and will not ever happen.

They will continue to find rabbit holes in these laws and cause more damage. If they had started by targetting the websites of the political parties who wrote and supported these laws, the game would have been up, overnight.

That One Guysays:

'Honest, our hands are tied.'

“There is no formal counter notification process available under US law for circumvention, so we have not reinstated these URLs,” Google replied, requesting a detailed explanation from the site.

Yeah no, if they know the claims are bogus and are still taking them down and keeping them down at that point that’s entirely on Google. They don’t have to go through a process they could simply reinstate the links due to them having been taken down by fraudulent notices, they’re simply refusing to do so.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re:

Because those companies can afford to fight back and would do so, not to mention if one of them were targeted(and the notice wasn’t automatically tossed due to who it was aimed at) you can be damn sure that Google would find out that they can in fact reinstate links taken down due to 1201 notices making it a short-term and very costly ‘victory’ for the frauds.

Annonymousesays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

I would not be at all surprised in the least if and when they trace back Wolf Fang to their financial backers that the MPAA RIAA are there.

Think about it, who benefits the most with little actual cost to themselves, yet circumventing legal restrictions on killing off opponents?
It’s the, hey look, they shot at us to so we didn’t do it, then spit shine the scuff marks while the competition lays there dead.

ECAsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

How about 2 others.

Its performative, to show how stupid our laws are.

Its the religious right(or who ever is over there thinking laws and regulations should be followed) That they are their Brothers keeper.

Then there is 1 other, that thinks about Both of the above. A corp like disney and Nintendo or sony. That wonders how far they can take this. dumping an bot into a persons email that auto sends a notice, isnt to hard esp if a site is just an email drop and send.(spam sender that reroutes emails.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: You are simply LEECHING. -- As if no one will notice! That's

You don’t mention your source at all until hidden in link 2rd para, and NEVER note it AS source, your SOLE source, instead put yourself out front:

as I noted in my original post, doesn’t seem to actually exist.

Up to Techdirt’s usual standard: grabbing credit away from those who did the work.

YOU didn’t "note" ANYTHING, Timmy: that implies did original investigation. But you only read Torrent Freak and then re-wrote it in your favor. You are pure LEECH, not adding any value.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: You are simply LEECHING. -- As if no one will notice! That's

IN with little bit of text at last!

Cheaty TD censors out of sight.

Doesn’t TD care that are losing 0.001 other comments by its hidden censoring?

Just THINK: over course of a year, that adds up to .365 of a comment! — And you NEED it, TD, otherwise have only rabidly orthodox fanboys.

ECAsays:

Re: Re: Abolish Copyright

Nah..
Just take it back to 20 years, or even cut it to 7 for Movie music.
But do understand the REAL problem. WE took our control away from the corps, they dont have to Mind what we want. They are free to use a Contract and do anything they want. Go look at some of those contracts and you will cry for the artists. The old contracts gave the music tot he corps, and nothing to the artist, then the Corps made a trap, that they would LOAN the first payments to the group, then charge them for everything to record and indebt them to the corp to pay them back, before they get any more money.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

These notices are so important no one would EVER abuse them.

Ummm so the billions of defective/fake DMCA notices don’t exist?
Now they are abusing another section, that no one can even appeal.

Perhaps the Congressman from Hollywood would like to answer questions about why everyone else has to suffer while Hollywood and other bad actors abuse the entire process & actively harm consumers.

That Anonymous Cowardsays:

These notices are so important no one would EVER abuse them.

Ummm so the billions of defective/fake DMCA notices don’t exist?
Now they are abusing another section, that no one can even appeal.

Perhaps the Congressman from Hollywood would like to answer questions about why everyone else has to suffer while Hollywood and other bad actors abuse the entire process & actively harm consumers.

Anonymoussays:

My immediate thought is that this is some Russian firm that sold a pitch to American or transnational copyright holders bragging that they could get anything they opposed delisted, including circumvention technology and sites. Since it’s offshore and of unclear origin, the companies themselves aren’t associated with the bogus claims (not that they’ve gotten in trouble for bogus claims before).

Anonymoussays:

My immediate thought is that this is some Russian firm that sold a pitch to American or transnational copyright holders bragging that they could get anything they opposed delisted, including circumvention technology and sites. Since it’s offshore and of unclear origin, the companies themselves aren’t associated with the bogus claims (not that they’ve gotten in trouble for bogus claims before).

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Why not DMCA www.google.com

if they are just rubber stamping them without any vetting.

Google is at the wrong end of an asymmetric war. It is easy to generate millions of notices by computer, while it often takes people to detect bad notices and handle appeals. A few lines of code can cost Google millions to deal with the results.

Anonymoussays:

Pinterest is not a reputable site

It there was a way I could block pinterest from the search results I would. It’s like getting search results from askjeeves on google. Except worse. Because at least if I went to askjeeves via a google search they’d have a link to the actual content where as with pinterest you just get stuck there looking at an image.

Anonymoussays:

Pinterest is not a reputable site

It there was a way I could block pinterest from the search results I would. It’s like getting search results from askjeeves on google. Except worse. Because at least if I went to askjeeves via a google search they’d have a link to the actual content where as with pinterest you just get stuck there looking at an image.

Anonymoussays:

Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

Legally Google do have to go through the process, as the DMCA doesn’t have a good faith exception for hosts they only get safe harbour protections when they take content down.

Every time they refuse to action a request (even a bogus one) it opens them up to liability, as the DMCA (and the courts) don’t care if a notice is valid just that one has been sent.

And if the Music Industry keep on getting wins against US ISP’s I expect it won’t be long before they sue Google the next time they reject some of their takedown notices.

Though if I was Google I’d action all takedown notices and when someone complains point out the law required them to do so as that is the best chance the DMCA will get rewritten and not in an even more one-sided way.

Bobvioussays:

Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

For at least one of the sites, Google has acknowledged that the delist request was not legit, but also said there is no current appeals process.

It’s a game. Which is exactly why these giblet-fondlers are using 1201. They are deliberately using processes with maximum negative impact on the targets, knowing that the kind of review that these stupid laws should have had during "due diligence" did not and will not ever happen.

They will continue to find rabbit holes in these laws and cause more damage. If they had started by targetting the websites of the political parties who wrote and supported these laws, the game would have been up, overnight.

Anonymoussays:

Re: You are simply LEECHING. -- As if no one will notice! That's

You don’t mention your source at all until hidden in link 2rd para, and NEVER note it AS source, your SOLE source, instead put yourself out front:

as I noted in my original post, doesn’t seem to actually exist.

Up to Techdirt’s usual standard: grabbing credit away from those who did the work.

YOU didn’t "note" ANYTHING, Timmy: that implies did original investigation. But you only read Torrent Freak and then re-wrote it in your favor. You are pure LEECH, not adding any value.

Anonymoussays:

Re: You are simply LEECHING. -- As if no one will notice! That's

IN with little bit of text at last!

Cheaty TD censors out of sight.

Doesn’t TD care that are losing 0.001 other comments by its hidden censoring?

Just THINK: over course of a year, that adds up to .365 of a comment! — And you NEED it, TD, otherwise have only rabidly orthodox fanboys.

That One Guysays:

Re:

Because those companies can afford to fight back and would do so, not to mention if one of them were targeted(and the notice wasn’t automatically tossed due to who it was aimed at) you can be damn sure that Google would find out that they can in fact reinstate links taken down due to 1201 notices making it a short-term and very costly ‘victory’ for the frauds.

Annonymousesays:

Re: Re:

I would not be at all surprised in the least if and when they trace back Wolf Fang to their financial backers that the MPAA RIAA are there.

Think about it, who benefits the most with little actual cost to themselves, yet circumventing legal restrictions on killing off opponents?
It’s the, hey look, they shot at us to so we didn’t do it, then spit shine the scuff marks while the competition lays there dead.

ECAsays:

Re: Re: Re:

How about 2 others.

Its performative, to show how stupid our laws are.

Its the religious right(or who ever is over there thinking laws and regulations should be followed) That they are their Brothers keeper.

Then there is 1 other, that thinks about Both of the above. A corp like disney and Nintendo or sony. That wonders how far they can take this. dumping an bot into a persons email that auto sends a notice, isnt to hard esp if a site is just an email drop and send.(spam sender that reroutes emails.

ECAsays:

Re: Abolish Copyright

Nah..
Just take it back to 20 years, or even cut it to 7 for Movie music.
But do understand the REAL problem. WE took our control away from the corps, they dont have to Mind what we want. They are free to use a Contract and do anything they want. Go look at some of those contracts and you will cry for the artists. The old contracts gave the music tot he corps, and nothing to the artist, then the Corps made a trap, that they would LOAN the first payments to the group, then charge them for everything to record and indebt them to the corp to pay them back, before they get any more money.

That One Guysays:

Re: Re: 'Honest, our hands are tied.'

It would be one thing if the claims were questionable, if the sender might have the rights they are claiming but when it becomes obvious that they most certainly do not then Google doesn’t have to do anything, neither take the links down nor keep them down and therefore treat the original claim as legitimate. Sure they could be sued for it but I imagine any judge that would buy the ‘even fraudulent claims still count and need to be honored'(looking at you judge in the Cox case) would buy any argument that let them stick it to those infernal tech companies.

Translating it into the physical world is going to be rough but I suppose it would be like if I claimed something in your yard was mine and just took it, you went to the police to get the property back and even after it becomes crystal clear after the fact that I do not have ownership over the item them claiming that the original transfer of ownership stands because there’s no official ‘getting your stuff back’ process if someone prefaces their theft by claiming to be the rightful owner.

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