Fake US Copyright Office Impostor Forces Google to Remove URLs Based on Section 1201
of false views department
We have done more than our share of posting in the past about the problems within the DMCA takedown system as it is currently operated. Part of the reason for so many posts is the sheer number of issues with how it all works. For starters, when reviews are sent to search engines like Google to remove “problem” URLs, those reviews are often generated by automated systems which, unsurprisingly, result in a large majority of reviews targeting URLs that are are not in violation. As in, over 99% of these reviews. And even once we have overcome the misuse of automation notices that results in an incredible amount of collateral damage, then we need to add the great avenues open to fraud and abuse of the DMCA system. This type of fraud runs the gamut, from trolls just trying to wreak havoc for fun, to competitors in certain forms of content trying to hurt the competition. In the immortal words of former NFL coach John Fox: “Everything is a problem.
And, on the fraud and abuse side, it’s such a problem that perfectly legitimate URLs can be deleted by Google due to a request from “The US Copyright Office”, although that office does not make such requests.
Google has received several takedown notices claiming to be from the US Copyright Office, asking the search engine to remove “problematic” URLs. The government agency, which is generally not involved in copyright enforcement, informs TorrentFreak that it has nothing to do with these notices. Unfortunately, Google did not immediately spot the impostor.
The Copyright Office is not supposed to take sides on these issues. We were therefore quite surprised to see his name on several takedown notices sent to Google over the past few days.
Opt-out requests are not typical “Section 512” notices. Instead, they flag sites that circumvent technical safeguards, which is in violation of “Section 1201” of the DMCA. This is also how Google treated them.
And deal with at least some of them, Google has done. The notices claiming to be from the Copyright Office said they were sent on behalf of the Video Industry Association of America, which does not appear to exist from a Google search I performed. Even if this is the case, the Copyright Office is not a party to these kinds of takedowns on behalf of an organization. Targeted URLs seem to be mostly related to feed pulling sites, but not only sites that offer this service. Instead, some of the targeted URLs just mention sites that offer stream pulling services, which is how several TorrentFreak posts were targeted.
Anyone who does this is most certainly not the Copyright Office.
This suspicion has been confirmed by the US Copyright Office. A spokesperson informs TorrentFreak that the reviews in question were not submitted by them.
This does not mean that the takedown requests were ignored by Google. Although our links are still indexed, several of the URLs listed in the reviews have indeed been removed because of the reviews, which is a problem.
It’s a huge problem, in fact. In fact, it pretty much demonstrates just how flawed the current DMCA system has become. The fact that this kind of identity theft is so easy is a problem. The fact that Google is so inundated with these types of requests, which are once again extremely illegitimate, that it cannot examine them in depth enough to notice the clear identity theft from the Copyright Office in l work here is another problem. And the fact that the DMCA process is clearly seen by some bad actors as a widely open tool to attack their own competition is another issue.
And, most notably, there is not even an appeal process for section 1201 withdrawal requests.
Unfortunately, there is no counter-notification option for “Section 1201” takedown notices. This means that the sites and services affected by these fake notifications do not have an official appeal process that they can use.
But maybe the US Copyright Office can help?
Or maybe someone can just pretend to be the Copyright Office and help out. You know, in his “name”. It works for bad actors, after all.
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Filed Under: circumvention, fraudulent copying, copyright abuse, dmca, dmca 1201, withdrawals, us copyright office