In an attempt to make it harder for people to find pirated copies of its movies, Paramount Pictures has tried to remove several uTorrent forum posts from Google's search results. However, it turns out that none of the threads that were called out as unlawful actually link to copyright infringing material.
Week in and week out copyright holders scour the Internet to detect and report millions of alleged infringements.
Most attention goes out to Google which receives around a dozen million takedown requests per week for its search engine alone.
Many of the reported links are from torrent sites such as The Pirate Bay and point to pirated content. However, some of the URLs copyright holders complain about to Google are not infringing at all.
Last week Paramount Pictures asked for the removal of various discussions at the forums of the popular torrent client uTorrent. The notices claim that the discussions are “infringing” but the threads themselves show no evidence of that.
For example, Paramount sent a takedown notice to protect the 2009 movie “Imagine That.” The list of allegedly infringing URLs includes a uTorrent forum thread, as shown below.
After reading the topic we could find no mentions of a pirated movie. Instead, the only mention of “imagine that” was in the post below, which doesn’t appear to be infringing at all.
The same error was repeated several times in other targeted discussions on utorrent.com. One notice lists a forum thread that allegedly offers an infringing copy of “Ghost,” but again the topic itself is completely unrelated to the movie.
This also happened to a thread where a user pointed out that he was “clueless” about something. This apparently rang alarm bells at Paramount’s content protection company who assumed that this person was referring to a pirated copy the film “Clueless.”
Talking about clueless, the same notice also targets the Disqus profile of the user “Clueless°,” simply because he or she shares a name with the movie title.
The most likely explanation for the errors is a lack of oversight. Paramount’s content protection company scans the Internet for keyword combinations and when movie titles are used in combination with other ‘suspicious’ terms such as “torrent,” URLs may be flagged automatically.
Unfortunately these mistakes are not isolated incidents. In recent years we’ve highlighted countless examples of takedown requests that censor legitimate content, often hurting traffic for the affected sites.
The good news is that Google appears to have white-listed several domains, including utorrent.com and Disqus. This means that while the links reported on behalf of Paramount Pictures were not removed, less prominent sites may not be so lucky.