In what appears to be a case of either mistaken identity or guilt by association, in one of their recent DMCA filings, HBO included a takedown request link pointing to the VLC media player. For those who are not aware, a DMCA filing, at least regarding search engines, asks for the providing engine to remove links that point to sites offering and/or supporting the distribution of copyrighted content. Google gets over a million of them a month.
In this case, HBO was going after sites that were pointing to torrents for Game of Thrones and Veep, among others.
During the process of listing the URLs it would like to see removed from Google’s search index, HBO included a link that points to the aforementioned VLC Player. The link in question was featured on TorrentPortal.com, a site that tracks bit torrent files around the web, much like the name suggests. The site was in HBO’s targets for the following links:
Whatever your position is on file sharing, from HBO’s perspective, it’s easy to see why the first two links were included. They are pointing to torrents that promise infringing content. The third, however, is a innocuous link that points to a legitimate utility that millions of people use. You might also notice that the first two links, while going to infringing torrents, the copyrighted content in question–The Evil Dead and Twenty Feet From Stardom–does not “belong” to HBO. These movies were not titles included in HBO’s DMCA dragnet, but yet, they are part of the takedown request list.
Is this a case of HBO overstepping their boundaries, or are they simply taking the “It takes a village” approach to ridding the Internet of illegal file-sharing? Furthermore, do takedown requests for legitimate content somehow invalidate the rest of the DMCA filing? Of course, this is just part of a bigger discussion, that is, should it even be illegal to link to infringing content? As Torrent Freak points out, this behavior is par for the course with HBO and its filings:
Over the past months HBO and many other copyright holders have built up a dubious track record when it comes to DMCA takedown notices. In addition to many “bogus” claims the company also tried to have its own website removed from Google.
The above mistakes may be relatively harmless to the site owners, but they show once again how much can go wrong with these automated DMCA notices. This is particularly troublesome since Google is down-ranking sites based on the number of DMCA notices it receives for them.
Is this a case of the “boy who cried wolf” or is HBO just being thorough?