TorrentFreak reports on a takedown notice sent to video-sharing site Vimeo that succeeded in removing ten videos, most of which had absolutely nothing to do with a movie about aliens attacking Earth in the form of classic video games.
The copyright holders of one video, posted by an arts organization in Cyprus, tried to argue to Vimeo that the 2006 video was made by the author “using his own photos and sounds/music on a shoestring budget and infringes no copyright.”
They pleaded with Vimeo to “check the video in question and confirm for yourselves that it breaks no copyright laws and that it has nothing to do with the latest multi-million blockbuster which prompted this notification.”
The wonderful response from Vimeo wasn’t “Oh crap. You’re right. This doesn’t have anything to do with a bloated cash-grab starring that guy from the Paul Blart movies. Sorry.” Instead, a site staffer would only say “This is in the hands of our trust and safety team and we unfortunately our support team cannot help you with this issue.”
Interestingly, one of the removed clips is actually about a similar topic to the recent box-office dud. It features 8-bit video game characters raining down destruction on Manhattan. But this award-winning video from Patrick Jean, which has been viewed more than 1.3 million times on YouTube, can’t have infringed on the Pixels copyright — because it pre-dates the movie by five years and doesn’t feature Peter Dinklage in a mullet wig.
Luckily it’s still available on YouTube so you can judge for yourself whether or not the artist somehow traveled back and forth through time and space to proactively infringe on a copyright that didn’t exist:
As of now, all of the clips removed from Vimeo are still down. We’ve reached out to Vimeo to ask why the company obliged an obvious error and if it’s doing anything to resolve the issue.
UPDATE: After being contacted by Consumerist, Vimeo’s head of communications said the affected videos had been restored to the site and provided the following statement:
Late last week, Vimeo removed certain videos pursuant to a DMCA takedown notice filed by Entura International claiming that the videos contained copyrighted content from the film Pixels. After users informed us that their videos did not contain any Pixels content, we reached out to Entura. Entura has since withdrawn its takedown notice. As a result, we have now restored the affected videos.
We’ve asked Vimeo if this confirms the website’s policy of obliging DMCA takedown notices without review or question. Again, we’ll update if they reply to that question.
The bigger question is whether the firm, Entura International, that sent out these takedown notices on Columbia Pictures’ behalf, is breaking the law.
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows companies like Entura to enjoy this “shoot first, ask questions later” approach to copyright claims, also requires that companies sending takedown notices do so only after having done their due diligence and determined that infringement has likely occurred.
In fact, the DMCA clearly states that “Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents” that something infringes on copyright “shall be liable for any damages, including costs and attorneys’ fees, incurred by the alleged infringer… who is injured by such misrepresentation, as the result of the service provider relying upon such misrepresentation in removing or disabling access to the material or activity claimed to be infringing.”
Unfortunately, abusers of DMCA claims rarely get held to account for the damage they do. Just ask the Pennsylvania woman who has been fighting Universal Music in court for eight years over her 29-second YouTube clip of her young child daring to dance to a barely audible Prince song in the background.