Warner Brothers engaged in false claims of copyright infringement

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Warner Brothers has admitted in a court proceeding that it engaged in a practice of sending notices to a website demanding that it remove certain digital files as copyright infringement, despite having no copyright on the content at issue. In at least some instances, the company just demanded the removal of some software simply motivated by the fact that the company did not like it.

The company sent the website notices under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which empowers copyright owners to demand that websites take down copies of infringing content, with websites exempt from liability for potential copyright infringement if they comply with the notice. Critics of the law have contended that this has a chilling effect on the presentation of non-infringing material, as companies may issue such notices and demand the removal of particular content even in some instances where it does not actually infringe.

Warner Brothers’ practices in this regard arose in the context of a lawsuit it filed against a cyberlocker website called Hotfile which provided a mechanism for users to upload and share digital files online. The lawsuit charged Hotfile with facilitating copyright infringement, a charge Hotfile denied. Hotfile further asserted that it had, in fact, fully cooperated with Warner Brothers to help prevent the use of its services for copyright infringement purposes, even producing special software to detect potentially infringing files and target them for removal.

Warner Brothers now admits that it responded to this defense by issuing numerous DMCA takedown notices to Hotfile demanding the removal of content that it knew it had no copyright on. In some instances, it did so after simply searching for digital files that used similar keywords to material that it owned the copyright on, never going to the trouble of even looking at the actual content of the file whose removal it was demanding.

Source: Tech Dirt “A Glimpse Of The Future Under SOPA: Warner Bros. Admits It Filed Many False Takedown Notices” Mike Masnick, Nov. 10, 2011