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EFF accuses Warner of spamming DMCA takedown notices

Computerized checking misses the mark

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The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has accused Warner Brothers Entertainment of using a flawed computer program to send out takedown notices without proper oversight.

The claims were made in an amicus curiae (friend of the court) filing in the ongoing legal battles between the entertainment industry and Hotfile, which distributes content that is often illegally shared. In 2011, the MPAA sued Hotfile and its owner Anton Titov, who promptly countersued Warner for requesting media takedowns of content to which it did not own the rights, under the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

Much of the legal battle is still sealed, but according to the brief, Warner has acknowledged that the notices were sent out incorrectly, saying they were mistakes churned out by the software while searching for content. The EFF brief points out that such practices are barred under the terms of the DMCA.

"The law requires the sender of a takedown notice has to have a good-faith belief that their copyright is being infringed," Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney at the EFF told The Register. "The system they are using appears to only be looking at file names, and sending out notices with no human review of the requests, or even an automated review of the file in question."

In essence, the EFF claims, Warner is attempting to set a precedent that would allow DMCA takedown notices to be used for competitive advantage. By being able to blame the whole thing on computer error, companies would have a "perverse incentive to dumb-down the process," the brief reads.

The EFF points out that over a third of takedown notices received by Google are false, and warns the problem will get worse if Warner wins this point. Based on some of the practices with takedowns El Reg has seen, the EFF has a point. ®

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