The DMCA takedown system needs an overhaul

Hello morning from Sealand!

What is the DMCA?

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act is a system, written into American law, whereby a copyright holder can send a message to a server or administrator hosting pirated content demanding it’s removed. More determined pirates simply ignore these messages or use VPNs, but they have the effect of scaring some people into never torrenting again.

The benefits and disadvantages of the system are strongly debated, and there have been more than the far share of hilarious takedown notices sent in error, to the wrong site, to the copyright holders own website or in one case a blog about petunias.

The most recent case of this is when Fox news issued a takedown request for Sky’s legitimate YouTube feed of the Republican Party debate. The irony is, Sky is the across the pond equivalent of Fox (It’s much less biased and at least puts the occasional minority presenter in front of the screen). This incident is only officially amusing, because both Fox and Sky have the same parent company. 20th Century Fox, of the Murdoch empire.

So what’s the issue?

Well many of these DMCA takedown requests are highly automated. A computer searches the internet and torrents for keywords and file hashes, before sending out angry messages demanding they be removed easily. Except these computers can’t actually see the contents of these files. Brought most amusing to light earlier this week, anti-piracy (intellectual property protection) Entura allegedly sent DMCA takedown notices to a load of videos on Vimeo that contained the keyword “Pixels”. Entura was acting to protect the new Pixels from Columbia Pictures. “Pixels” is the name of that film, and as such, they sent these messages.

Vimeo, understandably not wanting to be sued for failing to comply with a DMCA takedown, has an automated system to comply with these orders, and as such as soon as one is received, the video is taken down. There is no appeals process, and the original uploader might find their account banned or deleted, despite the fact they owned the copyright to their original video.

The huge irony here is the Entura claims to be protecting original content creators and their intellectual property, but, in a bid to please its client, is firing off erroneous DMCA takedown orders to the people these agencies claim to protect. In an even more amusing twist of fate, Entura sent a DMCA takedown to Pixels’ official trailer, taking that down too and leaving only bootlegged Pixels trailers online for quite some time.

This is just like the case when Universal ordered Google remove links to Jurassic World’s IMDB page, because it was infringing their intellectual property…great. Or when CBS took down the How I met Your Mother CBS page, or when Microsoft…took down Microsoft.

Or there are numerous other examples of film studios allegedly taking down their own websites (or those of their parent companies) with DMCA takedown orders, sent completely in error.

So what’s the solution?

An appeals process. It sounds so simple yet would fix so many issues. However, this would be nearly impossible to implement. A more practical approach would be to issue DMCA takedown orders manually, but this could result in more piracy. However, the DMCA Takedown system has become a massive money spinner, and there is still money to be made in sending out DMCA Takedown orders, even if they are bogus.

It’s an impossible situation for both sides, but I’m sure something can we worked out. Meanwhile I’m now praying we don’t get a DMCA takedown order because I used the word “pixels” earlier in my article. Anyway, It’s raining here so I’m going outside.



Write a variety of articles, when I get the time. Usually do more longform and analysis than I probably should. Also an editor.

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