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Warner Brothers criticised for ‘robo takedowns’

EFF says firm must take responsibility
Wed Mar 07 2012, 11:22

CIVIL LIBERTIES GROUP The Electronic Frontier Foundation has told a court that film company Warner Bros must take full responsibility for its habit of demanding that content it does not own be deleted from web sites.

Warner Bros has been accused of using takedown notices to remove content for which it does not own the rights from sharing web site Hotfile before, and has been accused of using a scatter gun approach with no recourse.

The EFF said that those days should end, and demanded that Warner Bros take responsibility. It has asked a court in San Francisco to reject arguments from the firm that an automated system is at fault.

"Warner is accused of sending thousands of takedown notices for content it did not own to a cyber-locker site called Hotfile," it said in a statement. "Warner insists that while it knew it was issuing some bad takedown requests with its semi-automated system, the errors should be excused by the court because a computer made the mistake - not a human."

The EFF has filed an amicus brief in the court in which it makes the arguments and tries to step in before Warner washes its hands of Hotfiles claims for damages and walks away from the whole mess altogether.

"Hotfile's customers unfairly lost access to content because of Warner's bogus takedowns. But under Warner's theory, any company could sidestep accountability for abusing the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) by simply outsourcing the process to a computer," added EFF intellectual property director Corynne McSherry.

"In fact, the companies would have a perverse incentive to dumb down the process, removing human review. What Warner is doing here is a ploy to undermine the DMCA provisions that protect Internet users from overbroad and indiscriminate takedowns like the ones it issued."

We have covered this before, and the arguments date back to a time when Warner's systems went after content with the words "The Box", "The Town" and "Unknown" in them. While these are films from the firm, Warner Bros did not check to see whether the files it targeted were in fact those movies.

The EFF is keen to remind us that since Megaupload was shut down filesharing web sites or digital lockers have been thrown into a panic, adding that it is important that their lawful use is preserved. .

"Cloud storage sites like Hotfile are becoming increasingly important," said EFF staff attorney Mitch Stoltz.

"But improper takedowns like Warner's undermine their usefulness. Companies must be held responsible when their sloppy processes hurt other businesses and Internet users." µ


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