Stop Online Piracy Act, Warner Bros., and the Loss of Due Process

Have you ever put a home video up on YouTube or come across content that has been taken down for apparent copyright infringement? This is typically the result of a copyright holder (usually a studio) issuing a DMCA takedown order to the site hosting the content. This order is usually a first step in a process that allows content owners to protect their property through the assertion of their rights to control where and how the content is made available.

Virtually every site on the Web that is in the business of hosting content contributed by third parties (YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, etc.) has a system in place that allows content creators to file claims of copyright infringement against data uploaded by third party users. On the surface, this looks like a very fair and reasonable method of keeping everyone happy. Unfortunately, the process itself is flawed, especially when there are so many different sites that host third party content. Content creators are turning to automated scripts and recognition software to crawl through the seemingly endless sea of sites in search of their intellectual property.

Warner Bros. has come under fire for apparently issuing takedown orders for content they neither saw nor owned. This revelation came in the wake of an ongoing legal battle between Hotfile and the MPAA. In a recent court filing, Warner Bros. admitted to many of the allegations made though Hotfile’s claims. Below is a copy of the latest court filing from Warner Bros.

Warner

To break this down, Warner Bros. used an automated software to detect copies of its content on various file hosting (locker) sites that allow users to upload large files for others to download. The intention behind these sites is to help individuals who don’t have their own hosting to send large files, be they media or software, to another.

Once the software detected a match, a human team filed DMCA takedown requests, which resulted in the removal of several items to which Warner Bros. didn’t own the copyright. Unfortunately, the team at Warner Bros. didn’t have the time and/or resources to download and test every file in order to confirm copyright infringement had even taken place. In some instances, these files were actually completely unrelated to Warner Bros. media. Open source software, audiobooks, and even an old BBC production were among the content removed due in part to Warner Bros. not checking to see if the content in the file matched its property. Doing a search for the 2009 movie “The Box” resulted in a large array of various files that used the common term in their titles.

This accidental misidentification wasn’t restricted to file names or descriptions. One instance, noted in the complaint, involved a comment that contained a keyword the software had been searching for.

If this activity doesn’t have you scratching your head at just how these production companies get as much power as they do, a new piece of legislation currently making the rounds is set to extend those powers even higher. Instead of just removing the file itself, the MPAA could even go so far as to restrict the websites’ access to income through advertising and subscription plans. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is currently in committee. If passed, it would greatly increase the powers given to copyright holders including bodies such as the MPAA and RIAA. If the MPAA had the increased powers outlined in the current version of the bill, it would have had the ability to virtually cripple Hotfile’s ability to make money through its legitimate business. For that matter, imagine that power being used against a website that merely has a similar name or a legitimate fair use (whether you agree with the term or not) reason for having the content on the site. A news or review organization that gives a damaging or otherwise negative review of a movie might be in jeopardy of having its financial well-being jeopardized without trial or due process simply because it has B-Roll of a movie trailer running in the background.

That sounds extreme, right? The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) has been in place for some time. Sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and others depend on the protections provided by the DMCA to safeguard them from legal ramifications should one of their users infringe on copyright. With SOPA, there’s no legal process necessary before the copyright holder makes a claim against a site’s financial support. For example, if you own a site that allows users to upload audio files and one of your users has a file that is (or possibly isn’t) in violation of copyright, the RIAA could contact PayPal and have it freeze your income within five days. (This is according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation.)

We’ve all heard the stories of little old ladies and eight-year-olds being prosecuted and sued for tens of thousands of dollars over a handful of copyrighted content shared through popular peer-to-peer networks such as Kazaa. If these legal Goliaths are willing to put someone into debt prior to their teens, imagine how quickly they would pull the trigger on reporting you to Visa.

The world of copyright law is a complex mishmash of various policies, laws, and countermeasures. The presumption of innocence is one of the fundamental principals of the US legal system. Unfortunately, this core right is jeopardized by an increasing amount of power handed to a select few copyright holders. The MPAA and RIAA have taken taken drastic measures to counter online piracy, and perhaps rightly so. The question facing legislators today is whether or not we should trust a for-profit entity to determine guilt or innocence, especially when its track record is admittedly as sketchy as it is.

16 comments On Stop Online Piracy Act, Warner Bros., and the Loss of Due Process

  • There are still MILLIONS of copyright music/music videos on Youtube…they can never stop it completely .. Ever.

  • There are still MILLIONS of copyright music/music videos on Youtube…they can never stop it completely .. Ever.

    • Well they almost did stop it a few years ago. The only reason they are allowed on there now is because of the iTunes download links in the description area of the vids, which was caused by the massive digital rioting that happened on Youtube.
       
      Back when the RIAA was heavily ban-hammering Youtube users with takedown notices and muted audio tracks, the annons from 4chan (and others) were causing havoc by uploading porn with deceptive titles, changing the original vid slightly to fool the screening scripts and reuploading thier banned music vids immediately after the censoring happened. It was so out of control that Youtube had to strike a deal with the music industry since they didn’t have the manpower to fight the inrush of retaliation. 
       
      Most people don’t need to buy the song download anyway with all of the YouTube downloaders available. You can even do it manually with a couple of free apps.
       
      I agree that the RIAA/ MPAA needs to give it up. They have been fighting this for way too long and will probably never fully win the war against cheap or free content. They still want to charge an arm and a leg for their content (remember back to when Netflix was trying to iron out a deal with Stars?) and thinks that’s the way it will be because they said so. This is just another fine example of Whack-A-Mole. They will shutdown one method and more will popup in their place. At least the “content police” will have job security for as long as they want it. 🙂 

      • I can’t imagine why you would think vandalism by 4chan is an effective method of activity. It’s pure criminality, and the logical conclusion to it is only to force companies out of business and content sites to close, not them “winning” and forcing content creators to keep working and providing their infantile selves with entertainment.

        It’s ok to play Whack-A-Mole. You whack moles that way. We need to whack more moles.

        And it was hardly 4chan’s criminality that forced Youtube/Google’s hand — it was the Viacom and other lawsuits. Now, if I put a song track into my Second Life machinima by accident (because an Internet radio station was playing on a sim I was filming), the software instantly detects the track, blocks my machinima from view in Germany, and sends me a notice that I have infringed. Good! I’m happy the system works that way — and it will get better. Content creators and managers need to get paid!

        SOPA should be passed and implemented.

        • I never said that I was for or against 4chan, I was just trying to state facts. I know that the studios were the guys who were filing lawsuits against Youtube. Who else would be doing it? The studios just wanted another way to monetize their content so when they came to an agreement, they dropped the suit. If they really felt offended that their content was being plagerized on Youtube, they wouldn’t have allowed it at all. Since they have an opportunity to rape customers wallets, they will look the other way. 

          If the SOPA bill is written with the same flair that most bills have been in the past, you can guarantee that it will have more (loop)holes in it than swiss cheese. We are good at getting a concept off of the ground but terrible at execution and fine tuning usually. This is nothing more that a way for the US gov’t to attempt to have full control of the web. George Bush proposed that to the UN back when he was in office and Obama is trying to be a hero and finish the job during his term. The funny thing is, they would have the right to ban the DNS of “offensive” websites but we as citizens wouldn’t have the right to ban websites that are offensive to us like the IRS or the TSA as an example. 🙂 

        • I never said that I was for or against 4chan, I was just trying to state facts. I know that the studios were the guys who were filing lawsuits against Youtube. Who else would be doing it? The studios just wanted another way to monetize their content so when they came to an agreement, they dropped the suit. If they really felt offended that their content was being plagerized on Youtube, they wouldn’t have allowed it at all. Since they have an opportunity to rape customers wallets, they will look the other way. 

          If the SOPA bill is written with the same flair that most bills have been in the past, you can guarantee that it will have more (loop)holes in it than swiss cheese. We are good at getting a concept off of the ground but terrible at execution and fine tuning usually. This is nothing more that a way for the US gov’t to attempt to have full control of the web. George Bush proposed that to the UN back when he was in office and Obama is trying to be a hero and finish the job during his term. The funny thing is, they would have the right to ban the DNS of “offensive” websites but we as citizens wouldn’t have the right to ban websites that are offensive to us like the IRS or the TSA as an example. 🙂 

      • I can’t imagine why you would think vandalism by 4chan is an effective method of activity. It’s pure criminality, and the logical conclusion to it is only to force companies out of business and content sites to close, not them “winning” and forcing content creators to keep working and providing their infantile selves with entertainment.

        It’s ok to play Whack-A-Mole. You whack moles that way. We need to whack more moles.

        And it was hardly 4chan’s criminality that forced Youtube/Google’s hand — it was the Viacom and other lawsuits. Now, if I put a song track into my Second Life machinima by accident (because an Internet radio station was playing on a sim I was filming), the software instantly detects the track, blocks my machinima from view in Germany, and sends me a notice that I have infringed. Good! I’m happy the system works that way — and it will get better. Content creators and managers need to get paid!

        SOPA should be passed and implemented.

    • Well they almost did stop it a few years ago. The only reason they are allowed on there now is because of the iTunes download links in the description area of the vids, which was caused by the massive digital rioting that happened on Youtube.
       
      Back when the RIAA was heavily ban-hammering Youtube users with takedown notices and muted audio tracks, the annons from 4chan (and others) were causing havoc by uploading porn with deceptive titles, changing the original vid slightly to fool the screening scripts and reuploading thier banned music vids immediately after the censoring happened. It was so out of control that Youtube had to strike a deal with the music industry since they didn’t have the manpower to fight the inrush of retaliation. 
       
      Most people don’t need to buy the song download anyway with all of the YouTube downloaders available. You can even do it manually with a couple of free apps.
       
      I agree that the RIAA/ MPAA needs to give it up. They have been fighting this for way too long and will probably never fully win the war against cheap or free content. They still want to charge an arm and a leg for their content (remember back to when Netflix was trying to iron out a deal with Stars?) and thinks that’s the way it will be because they said so. This is just another fine example of Whack-A-Mole. They will shutdown one method and more will popup in their place. At least the “content police” will have job security for as long as they want it. 🙂 

  • Line by line rebuttal of Rowe’s interview. You geeks keep using edge-cases that are completely specious and misleading

    http://3dblogger.typepad.com/wired_state/2011/11/copyleftist-law-farer-opposes-sopa.html

  • Line by line rebuttal of Rowe’s interview. You geeks keep using edge-cases that are completely specious and misleading

    http://3dblogger.typepad.com/wired_state/2011/11/copyleftist-law-farer-opposes-sopa.html

  • Re: “We’ve all heard the stories of little old ladies and eight-year-olds
    being prosecuted and sued for tens of thousands of dollars over a
    handful of copyrighted content shared through popular peer-to-peer
    networks such as Kazaa. If these legal Goliaths are willing to put
    someone into debt prior to their teens, imagine how quickly they would
    pull the trigger on reporting you to Visa.”

    This happened because there wasn’t a universal law, with a definition, like SOPA, and with defenses, like SOPA. Read the law.

  • Re: “We’ve all heard the stories of little old ladies and eight-year-olds
    being prosecuted and sued for tens of thousands of dollars over a
    handful of copyrighted content shared through popular peer-to-peer
    networks such as Kazaa. If these legal Goliaths are willing to put
    someone into debt prior to their teens, imagine how quickly they would
    pull the trigger on reporting you to Visa.”

    This happened because there wasn’t a universal law, with a definition, like SOPA, and with defenses, like SOPA. Read the law.

  • So, let’s see. I post a link to my blog here, and my post automatically goes into the moderation queue. Yet this is an article here that opposes SOPA, that would prevent any lawful authority from doing this to stop links to pirate sites. Go figure!

  • So, let’s see. I post a link to my blog here, and my post automatically goes into the moderation queue. Yet this is an article here that opposes SOPA, that would prevent any lawful authority from doing this to stop links to pirate sites. Go figure!

  • Prokofy, let me see a link to the bill so I can be sure that it’s either as bad as they say it is or not for myself.  I’ve only truly seen one side of the argument, so I can’t say anything objective yet.

  • Waste of time and money, this is.  They should be taking care of jobs and the economy, and not dinking around with something so unenforcable and out of whack.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally AGAINST this thing, and I don’t even do P2P file trading/sharing.  It just goes to show how paid off they are by special interests that they try to get this thing passed right now.  I hope it goes down in flames, and more worthy and IMPORTANT current issues are placed in the forefront (where they should be).  

Leave a reply:

Your email address will not be published.

Site Footer

Sliding Sidebar

Close Bitnami banner
Bitnami