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The Perils of DMCA Take Down Notice Automation (Yet Again)

Here we go, again.

I’ve written before, twice, about the danger of introducing too much automation into your system for issuing DMCA take down notices, and now it appears that HBO is getting an object lesson in that danger, courtesy of one of its DMCA take down service providers.

If you look at the take down notice in question, and scroll down to the section pertaining to the HBO comedy Eastbound and Down, you’ll notice that the notice includes URLs from insidehboshop.hbo.com listed as infringing URLs.

That’s not a good thing, obviously.

Also included on the notice are URLs from IGN.com where official trailers from the show are featured along with brief synopses of individual episodes of the show. The use of materials from the show here sure looks like fair use and not the sort of thing that a rights-holder would want to see removed from the Web.

I’m repeating myself here, but it’s a warning that bears repeating: If you are in the business of issuing take down notices, you must check your work, particularly if you make extensive use of automation along the way. You must also have the foresight to do things like “whitelist” certain websites and URLs so that your spiders that crawl the web looking for infringements cannot erroneously flag sites that are clearly, obviously, unambiguously permitted to display the content in question.

Don’t get me wrong; there’s nothing wrong with automation. Heck, there’s nothing inherently wrong with automation in your DMCA infringement identification system that leads to over-inclusion of suspected infringements, so long as you also introduce protections into your system that lead to such over-inclusion being caught before it is acted upon.

Mistakes happen, even to the most cautious and conscientious among us. What’s not acceptable, however, is a mistake that is both easily anticipated and easily prevented. The mistake that is currently serving as an embarrassment to HBO is such a mistake, I’m sorry to say.

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