Warner Bros. Took Down Its Own Sites in Copyright Sweep

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Rather than go through and search by hand, major entertainment companies use automation and third-party services to comb through the internet and find websites that infringe on their copyright. In theory, there is not anything wrong with this — protecting one’s intellectual property is fine. But people and companies that file automated DMCA takedowns can often end up showing the cracks in our outmoded copyright system.

For instance, last month, Warner Bros. asked Google to delist its own websites from search rankings. According to TorrentFreak, the studio requested that Google scrub any record of official websites of The Dark Knight and The Matrix, both of which were hosted on the warnerbros.com domain. It should be pretty clear that these sites were authorized.

What it reveals is the troubling process by which copyright claims are automated, and, on too-frequent occasion, complied with. Fair use and intellectual property are thorny issues that machines are still not able to accurately parse. They require judgment rendered on a case-by-case basis, not blanket action. In this case, Warner Bros. shot itself in the foot, but too often, creators with fair-use claims are hounded by rights holders with more resources, and there is little that they can do.