A recent spate of online content “take-downs” instituted by Warner Bros. may underscore the potential negative affects of the Stop Online Piracy Act on internet business. Mediapost reports:
Earlier this year, a coalition of entertainment companies including Warner Bros sued the cyberlocker service Hotfile for copyright infringement. Warner and the other Hollywood studios alleged that the company enabled users to upload and share pirated material.
Two months ago Hotfile fired back with a claim that Warner Bros. violated the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by requesting the removal of files that it didn’t actually own. Hotfile had created a tool that Warner Bros. could use to automatically remove content. But, Hotfile alleged, Warner used this tool to wrongly take down material.
The Stop Online Piracy Act, currently before the House, creates a notice and take-down provision similar to the current one under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) which allows intellectual property owners to force websites to take down potentially infringing material. The Stop Online Privacy Act takes this a step further by allowing intellectual property owners to force financial companies and search engines to stop doing business (e.g. displaying and facilitating credit card transactions) with websites that refuse to comply with take-downs.
Now it seems that Warner Bros. recent take-down attempts underscore the risks of providing intellectual property owners with too much power to affect internet business. Of note:
Warner responded to the accusation by making the remarkable admission that it didn’t thoroughly vet claims before asking Hotfile to remove material. “Given the volume and pace of new infringements on Hotfile, Warner could not practically download and view the contents of each file prior to requesting that it be taken down…”
With regard to digital rights groups’ current reasons for opposing the Stop Online Privacy Act, Warner Bros.’s latest actions certainly illustrate the Act’s darker side and potential for abuse.
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