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    The IFPI's Takedown Campaign: By the Numbers

    Blake Ellis Reid, Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, May 16, 2010

    Abstract: In the time it takes you to read this article, at least one URL may have disappeared from Blogger as a result of a takedown notice from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. While the IFPI's takedown of several high-profile music blogs has raised eyebrows over the past several months, an analysis of the Chilling Effects notice archive reveals that IFPI's campaign is much larger in scope than previously understood, likely facilitated by automated infringement detection tools.



    In February, David Abrams discussed Google's controversial removal of half a dozen popular music blogs from their Blogger service as a result of DMCA takedown notices received from the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the international counterpart to the RIAA. Those blogs turned out to be only the tip of the iceberg in an ongoing campaign of IFPI takedowns deemed the "musicblogocide" by commentators.

    As David noted, most of the takedowns contain only bald lists of URLs, often numbering in the hundreds. Most do not contain information such as the allegedly infringing portions of blogs and posts and the allegedly infringed works, all required by the DMCA to allow legitimate bloggers to effectively assess and respond to the takedowns.

    The Numbers Behind the Campaign

    More surprising than IFPI's non-DMCA-conforming procedure, however, is the sheer scale of its campaign. According to a numerical analysis of takedown notices submitted to Chilling Effects, IFPI has sent nearly 400 initial notices since January 2009, targeting more than 108,000 unique URLs on more than 25,000 different blogs. The IFPI has sent nearly 300 follow-up notices complaining of alleged "repeat" infringements on over 32,000 URLs.

    The campaign shifted into high gear in August of 2009, after the IFPI's head piracy enforcer, Jeremy Banks, apparently hired a dedicated Internet anti-piracy specialist. Since August, IFPI has sent an average of 40 new takedown notices per month - that's more than one new notice every single day - requesting takedowns of nearly 12,000 new URLs per month. And at the peak of the campaign in January, IFPI sent over 65 new notices, requesting the takedown of almost 16,000 new URLs. That's more than 2 new notices and 500 new URLs per day - one URL every 3 minutes or less, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    Man or Machine?

    This huge volume of takedown requests seems much larger than such a small staff could handle on its own with human review of each. A human being would be hard-pressed to find a potentially infringing link, download the linked song, listen to it, verify that it was indeed infringing, confirm with the copyright owner that it was in fact posted without permission, and document their work - all in less than 3 minutes apiece.

    Accordingly, it seems likely that the IFPI is conducting the campaign with the help of automated infringement detection tools. If an individual did that automated search without special permission from Google/Blogger, the company could allege it violated their terms of service and the law. Blogger's Terms of Service - require users not to "use any robot, spider, other automated device, or manual process to monitor or copy any content from [Blogger]" - and Blogger's default robots.txt file posts a technological warning sign for automated users to keep out. Exceeding the terms-of-service authorization potentially violates criminal law, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act's prohibition on unauthorized access.

    The IFPI's apparently automated process raises further doubts about whether its takedowns comply with the DMCA's requirements. Notwithstanding the IFPI's refusal to admit that blog hosts even fall under the DMCA's safe harbors, can an automated process ever give rise to "a good faith belief" that the linked content is unauthorized?

     


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