The Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) was created to protect content creators from their works being pirated and sold without their consent or permissions. It’s supposed to be a good thing. That’s probably an oversimplified definition of DMCA but you can always do a web search if you want more in depth information. This story is about one woman’s head on collision with a DMCA filing and how it has managed to block her entire domain from being indexed by Google.
Back in 2014 a forgettable film by the name of Expendables 3 was released in theaters by Lionsgate Entertainment and not long after copies of the film surfaced on torrent sites. Lionsgate immediately took action identifying 10 anonymous users as the culprits in the theft of the film. Lionsgate’s lawsuit sought monetary compensation from the alleged thieves as well as blocking of torrent sites who hosted the stolen files.
“Lions Gate is informed and believes and on that basis alleges that only a single digital file containing the Film was stolen, and that every copy of the Film alleged in this complaint (and every copy available anywhere on the Internet) originated from and is a reproduction of that single original digital file,” the lawsuit says.
Soon after the news broke several websites picked up on the story including Variety and Mashable, reporting on the theft of the single digital copy of Expendables 3 as well as Lionsgate’s legal action in the matter. While all of this drama was happening between a large Hollywood studio and 10 anonymous users (somewhere in a quiet part of the Internet) Liza Gere was curating and writing personal articles. Liza runs a personal blog at http://lizagere.com/ which she uses to curate articles about one of her favorite pieces of technology, Google Glass.
Liza uses a service called IFTTT (If This Then That) which uses “recipes” to create actions across multiple platforms. In Liza’s case she had created a “recipe” in IFTTT to look for articles on the Internet that mentioned Google Glass and post those to her blog so she could read them at her leisure. I know what you’re thinking. What does Google Glass have to do with Expendables 3 and Lionsgate? Well it turns out that within Mashable’s story on the Lionsgate lawsuit there happened to be a link to one of their Google Glass stories. Liza’s IFTTT recipe happened to catch that one small reference to Google Glass and took Mashable’s story and posted it to her blog.
Now that may have been the end of it and Liza would have raised an eyebrow at why this particular story was curated to her blog when she had no interest in Expendables 3. But that’s not the end of it.
Lionsgate studios files DMCA take down notices against sites distributing Expendables 3 … but not just sites illegally distributing the movie. They also filed take down notices against everyone that mentioned they were coming after the pirates.
Lionsgate filed a DMCA takedown notice against Mashable and literally every site they could find that wrote about the lawsuit against the pirates of their film or were hosting the pirated copies. Since Liza’s own blog now had a copy of the Mashable article a DMCA was filed against her site as well. The kicker here though is the URL’s Lionsgate targeted for DMCA takedown. Mashable was asked to takedown their single URL to the story in question (which they never have) as was Liza (she has complied). But Lionsgate required more of Liza, they filed the DMCA against her root domain, meaning her entire website was under the DMCA filing and could now be blocked from being indexed by Google not just the “offending” article.
Liza has petitioned Google to get her site indexed once again by Google crawlers and she has received notice from Google they are looking into the matter. You can read those emails in their entirety on Liza’s website, here is the last communication from Google to Liza.
From: [email protected]
Thanks for Reaching out to us.
As described in 17 U.S.C. 512(g), we will forward the counter notification to the complainant. If we do not receive notice that the complainant has brought a court action within 10 to 14 days, we will reinstate the material in question.
The Google Team
So now Liza waits to see if Lionsgate is going to file a lawsuit against her for the mere mention of Expendables 3 and piracy and she continues to be blocked from Google indexing. The question at hand is. Should this even have happened? Did Liza get caught in the crossfire of a larger legal scuffle or is Lionsgate being a corporate bully? Are the DMCA rules a means to strong arm the little guy? Liza has her own questions on the matter.
This is a prime example of abuse of power. Everyone said this wouldn’t happen when the DMCA was passed in congress. So I ask, where are my rights?
Where is my right to free speech? Why didn’t the studio contact me or have to provide some sort of request or even show a burden of proof that I had done something wrong? Also if I had contemplated distribution of pirated material I most definitely would not have used my personal web site that has my very name in the domain. That would just be idiotic. Also why did they submit my whole domain? Does someone at the studio have a personal vendetta against me?
It’s clear that Liza had no intention of posting anything related to Expendables 3 or the fact that Lionsgate was going after the pirates who were distributing the film. IFTTT happened to snag that story in error and had the DMCA only asked that the “offending” URL be removed, Liza may have just removed it and been done with it. Instead her entire domain is targeted, yet Mashable and others full domains remained untouched. And why was Lionsgate asking for legitimate news stories be removed in the first place? Mashable and the other sites were only reporting a story worth reporting. Does reporting on legal matters fall under copyright protection? Lots of questions to be answered here. We are attempting to reach out to Lionsgate for comment on this story and will update it if we get a response.
In the meantime, what do you think of Liza’s DMCA woes? Was Lionsgate right to file a takedown on her entire domain? Let us know in the comments below or on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.