HBO has asked Google to take down VLC Media Player as a copyright infringer in an attempt to stop pirates from downloading episodes of Game of Thrones.
The most pirated television show on the web is HBO’s Game of Thrones. In response to this, HBO has sent a DMCA takedown notice to Google. Google receives requests like this all the time; every day, copyright holders send lists containing the web address to hundreds, if not thousands of copyright infringing files that the holders wish to be removed from Google’s web search, thus making the pirated material harder to find. In the past month alone, 14,855,269 URLs have been sent to Google.
Not all of these lists are legitimate. Sometimes, the URL requested for removal is already off the web when Google checks, and sometimes, perfectly legal sites end up on the lists as well. Copyright holders use automated systems to create the lists, and that means that non-infringing material sometimes ends up on the DMCA request by accident. Google does keep a close eye on the lists, but of course, it can’t catch all mistakes.
It did however, catch something amiss on HBO’s recent DMCA notice. Included in the list of links that usually only contains pirate sites, there was a link to the URL for downloading VLC, a popular media player. The URL does link to a torrent site, but since VLC is free, there isn’t any infringing material to speak of. Further more, the list contains links to Prince of Persia 5, various free Java applets, Naruto and even a Ben Harper album, neither of which have anything to do with Game of Thrones or HBO.
Here’s the list, with VLC highlighted
This is a worrying development. Over the past months, HBO and other copyright holders have been sending increasingly dubious DMCA lists, which once even included HBO’s own site. While occasional random mistakes won’t make any difference in the long run, it points to negligence and gives us a picture of how wrong things could get if nobody picks up on it. This is true especially since Google downranks sites on their search results depending on how many DMCA requests they get for them.
“We still do our best to catch errors or abuse so we don’t mistakenly disable access to non-infringing material. Google continues to put substantial resources into improving and streamlining this process, including into identifying erroneous and abusive takedowns, and deterring abuse”, said Google.