More Evidence That Tons Of DMCA Takedowns Are Bad News... And That People Are Afraid To Counternotice

from the it's-a-real-problem dept

Earlier this week, we wrote about a major new study that revealed that a ton of DMCA takedown notices are clearly faulty, and how that shows just how messed up the DMCA's notice-and-takedown provisions are in giving tremendous incentives to send notices with absolutely no punishment for filing bogus takedowns. The legacy music industry and its supporters keep claiming that the fact that there are so few counternotices is evidence that there's almost no abuse. In fact, in the legacy music industry filing we wrote about earlier today, they even had the gall to claim that the real abuse is in the counternotices themselves.

As more and more comment filings to the Copyright Office about the DMCA process are being released, there's increasing evidence that the legacy entertainment industry's claims are, simply, full of shit. The latest is the excellent comment filed by Automattic (the folks who make Wordpress), whose offering hosts over 80 million websites. The company notes that even while hosting so much content, the majority of the time the company spends dealing with DMCA notices is... dealing with the bogus ones:
We put a great deal of resources toward processing takedown notices because we take our responsibilities under the DMCA seriously. We aim to respond to all inbound takedown notices within 48 hours, exceeding the law’s requirements. But a significant portion of the resources we put towards our DMCA program are aimed at combating the shortcomings of the notice and takedown system. For example, we spend significant effort reviewing and trying to weed out overbroad and abusive DMCA takedown notices, so that our users’ speech isn’t needlessly censored. This is a real cost to us, and diverts resources from more productive uses, like improving the products and services we offer our customers.
As with the study we highlighted earlier this week, Automattic notes that a huge number of notices it receives are invalid. First, it notes that approximately 29% of notices simply aren't valid notices in that they fail to meet the criteria laid out by the DMCA for what constitutes a valid notice. Then, another 10% of notices do meet the criteria to be an official notice, but are "clearly false or mistaken." And that's based on their own review of the notices. So, approximately 40% of all DMCA takedown notices the company receives are bogus. But, contrary to what the legacy industry folks and their shills are saying, Automattic notes that very few people file counternotices, out of a fear of being sued, and they're concerned about how this leads to censorship of perfectly legal speech.
Our statistics bear this out. As discussed below with respect to Subject No. 30, our statistics show that about 10% of the notices of claimed infringement we receive are otherwise valid but are clearly false or mistaken. But we receive many fewer counter notifications than that—only about one-half of one percent of the total number of notices we receive. We think this ratio shows that the low number of counter notifications is not the result of a correspondingly low number of false and mistaken assertions of infringement, but instead results from the concern that sending a counter notification is likely to result in costly litigation, even if that litigation would ultimately turn out to hold that no infringement had occurred. The company notes that out of a batch of approximately 1,700 "valid" but bogus notices, only 113 counter notices were sent. Most people just don't bother out of fear of getting sued.
The company also highlights just how broken Section 512(f) is -- which is the section that is supposed to be used against bogus takedowns. But as we've written about in the past, it's basically a dead letter. There are almost no examples of 512(f) being used successfully against someone for sending a takedown... with the one exception being Automattic! As we wrote about, a few years ago, Automattic actually sued over egregiously bad DMCA notices and even won a case, but... it was by default, because the notice sender just ignored the lawsuit. In the other lawsuit, it could never actually find the plaintiff who sent the bogus censorious takedowns.

The company also provides a number of actual examples of bogus DMCA takedown notices to get beyond just the statistical aspect and to prove the problem is real:
  • A medical transcription training service that used forged customer testimonials on their website submitted a takedown for screenshots of the fake testimonials in a blog post exposing the scam.
  • A physician demanded removal of newspaper excerpts posted to a blog critical of the physician, by submitting a DMCA notice in which he falsely claimed to be a representative of the newspaper.
  • A model involved in a contract dispute with a photographer submitted a series of DMCA notices seeking removal of images of the model for which the photographer was the rights holder.
  • An international corporation submitted DMCA notices seeking removal of images of company documents posted by a whistleblower.
  • A frequent submitter of DMCA notices submitted a DMCA notice seeking removal of a screenshot of an online discussion criticizing him for submitting overreaching DMCA notices.
As the company notes, each of these were clearly bogus, but since 512(f) is basically useless, it would be a complete waste of time to sue over them.

It's good to see companies sharing this kind of information, and it tracks closely with what the study from earlier this week said, which was based on a different corpus of data. So, yeah, when the legacy guys claim there's no abuse, they're simply full of shit.
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Filed Under: abuse, censorship, copyright, counternotices, dmca, dmca 512, notice and takedown, safe harbors, wordpress
Companies: automattic

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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Apr 2016 @ 9:09pm


    Then it's straight and even worse: if they don't or can't understand copyright properly, they shouldn't be filling notices to take down content and they should be punished for every failure.

    And machines are worse than humans when dealing with law related issues...

    Professionals are liable for their mistakes, whether they are in good or bad faith; and they are supposed to be that.

    Someone messes their job, they get fired. They do it in bad faith, and they can even be sued or even criminal charges brought against them.

    Good or bad faith doesn't excuse you from liability. It just makes things worse if bad faith is proven.

    And also, expediency or not, good faith or not, they ARE screwing up 1 in 10 times.

    A 10% rate of failure in unacceptable in most jobs; even if reparations are done, either you fix that rate or you're going to get fired, your license revoked, your shop closed or whatever other consequences you may face nowadays.

    Imagine a restaurant where 1 in 10 customers get their orders wrong and nothing is done to fix it (and actually, it would more like the equivalent to "food poisoning", nice Russian Roulette)? You don't, do you? Then, this is the same. It's a job and it has to be properly done.

    And that should be the case here. Small failure rates are acceptable, if and only if, reparations are done in such cases. But this estimated rate, no. Sorry.

    And btw, quality is always expensive. There are a lot of jobs where they are spending tons to make sure you get the proper quality, more than making the product itself.

    So if doing things right is too expensive, then stop doing such activity; obviously.

    That's the answer any professional gets when they complain that something is too hard or too expensive: if you can't do it, then go change your job.

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