Remember Web Sheriff? That’s the wacky firm that claims it will send DMCA takedowns on your behalf or protect your online reputation by taking down stuff you don’t like. The company is somewhat infamous for being a joke and not doing its job particularly well. A couple of weeks ago we wrote about the company abusing the DMCA to try to get Google to delist stories relating to that “celebrity threesome” media injunction in the UK that has been making news for a few months. We highlighted just how ridiculous this was on many accounts, including using a copyright takedown notice on an issue that wasn’t about copyright at all. And they even tried to take down the company’s own Zendesk request to remove content from Reddit.
Anti-piracy outfit Web Sheriff has found itself mired in controversy after asking a music metadata site to change information relating to the artist Taio Cruz. After asking for proof that Cruz’s birth name is not Adetayo Ayowale Onile-Ere as listed, MusicBrainz received a birth certificate from Web Sheriff. However, it’s being claimed that the document is a forgery.
One of today’s favored anti-piracy methods is to have Google de-index alleged pirate links from its search results. The theory is that if users don’t find content on search pages 1, 2 or 3, there’s more chance of them heading off to an official source.
The trouble is, Google’s indexes are massive and therefore return a lot of data. This results in copyright holders resorting to automated tools to identify infringing content en masse and while for some people these seem to work well (the UK’s BPI appears to have a very good record), others aren’t so good at it.
Errors get made and here at TF we like to keep an eye out for the real clangers – obviously it’s of particular interest when we become the targets. After being wrongfully accused by NBC Universal eight times in February, we had to wait until April for the world-famous Web Sheriff to ride into town.
In a DMCA notice sent on behalf of The Weinstein Company, Web Sheriff tackles dozens of domains for alleged offering the company’s content for download. However, for reasons best known to the gun-slinging Sheriff, he told Google that TF’s list of the most popular torrent sites of 2015 is infringing on his client’s copyrights.
We weren’t the only targets though. The Sheriff also tried to have three pages removed from business networking site Linkedin and one each from movie promo sites ComingSoon and Fandango (which are both legitimately advertising Weinstein movies).
However, the real genius came when the Sheriff tried to take down the Kickstarter page for Weinstein’s own movie, Keep On Keepin’ On. Fortunately, Google is on the ball and rejected every attempt.