Warner Bros Accused of Pirating Own Movies

John Lister's picture

An attempt to prevent the piracy of Warner Brothers movies has backfired, with several Warner Brothers official pages being reported in violation to Google. It appears to be an overzealous campaign by an agency hired to protect the company's copyright.

The TorrentFreak site noticed the blunder while looking through a database of filings made to Google to report alleged breaches of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Such reports are designed to persuade Google to remove copyright-infringing sites from its search index. (Source: torrentfreak.com)

This doesn't remove the page from the web itself - something that usually involves going to court. However, when Google removes pages from its index, it makes these pages less visible, which then reduces the incentive for pirates to operate such sites and rake in ad revenue.

Dark Knight Official Page Reported

The DMCA complaint covered more than 350 web pages relating to five Warner Brothers movies, namely: The Dark Knight, 300, Batman Begins, The Matrix and Inception. While most of the listed pages were illegal streaming sites, some were in fact legitimate sites, including Amazon's rental page for The Dark Knight. (Source: lumendatabase.org)

Even more embarrassingly, the list included official promotional pages such as the Warner Brothers page for The Dark Knight, which are not only operated by the copyright holder, but also do not contain illegal copies of the movie (other than the trailer), and which links only to sites that legally sell downloads or streaming access.

Automated Check Could Be To Blame

To cap it off, the report was made by "Vobile Inc on behalf of Warner Bros. Entertainment," referring to an agency hired to search for potential infringements. That means Warner Bros effectively paid to get itself reported in violation to Google, which then de-listed its own site and legitimate affiliate sites.

While it's certainly an embarrassing incident, there's also a more serious issue at hand. From this incident, it appears that the alleged infringing sites were added through an automated process that doesn't have enough safeguards and human vetting to make sure the claims of wrongdoing are legitimate. If that is the case, then there are likely to be many other websites that have been blacklisted in the same manner.

What's Your Opinion?

Are you surprised Vobile made such a blunder? Does it suggest it may be too quick to report sites? Does this undermine the legitimate efforts to stop pirate sites?

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Dennis Faas's picture

Fighting piracy is like playing a game of whack-a-mole - if one site goes down, another one pops up in its place. Profits for such sites are extremely lucrative because users search to download illegal content, then come across a site alleging to give it away for free - along with a barrage of advertisements that make the site a ton of money in return.

Look at The Pirate Bay - it's still going, though it's been shut down and/or raided multiple times, only to start right back up again. If you google "the pirate bay" it even comes up with a site description that reads "Download music, movies, games, software and much more. The Pirate Bay is the galaxy's most resilient BitTorrent site." Talk about in-your-face.