We have seen dumb takedown notices and requests (via DMCA) in the past, such as when a researcher was kicked off MediaFire. However, we have not yet seen something as ridiculous as the following.
As I mentioned before in my criticism of LeakID, companies are allowed to issue DMCA takedown requests for content on the internet they own that is being infringed upon. With how big the internet is, it just isn’t possible for companies to only manually issue DMCA takedown notices — so automatic DMCAs are used, with computer programs scanning the internet for infringing links and automatically issuing DMCAs for links the programs feel are infringing on copyrighted content. Microsoft, in particular, appears to like to use automated DMCAs to prevent the piracy of Microsoft Office and Windows. In July these automated DMCAs backfired when the company issued requests to Google to remove various legitimate links from Google’s search engine.
In its July 27, 2012 complaint to Google, Microsoft asked Google to remove hundreds of links related to Microsoft products. Most, if not all, of the requests for Microsoft Office 2007, Office 2010, Office 2013, and Xbox games were legitimate requests aimed at illegitimate links. However, roughly a third of the 66 links Microsoft claimed to infringe on “Windows 8 Beta” were (are) legitimate links belonging to legitimate websites:
As you can see in the list above, most of the links indeed do point to websites that appear to be relate to piracy (don’t visit them). However, there are many legitimate links on the list, too… links belonging to BBC, CNN, TechCrunch, HuffingtonPost, Washington Post, Wikipedia, and even the US government (the EPA). You know, links that are not infringing on “Windows 8 Beta”.
For more egg on Microsoft’s face, TorrentFreak claims the legitimate links seem to have been mistakenly targeted simply because they had “45″ in the URL. Nice one, Microsoft (or whoever you hired to do the takedowns).
It isn’t entirely clear if Google complied with all the requests Microsoft sent but today most, if not all, of the falsely flagged links are available on Google. And some of accused websites, such as the BBC and Wikipedia, are actually on Google’s whitelist so they probably were never delinked from Google, despite Microsoft’s accusations.
This is just another example of how automated DMCAs have become ridiculous.