Microsoft apparently accuses Microsoft of copyright infringement in US lawsuit

by Redmans on August 5, 2013

Microsoft has, according to PC World, scored an own-goal by apparently accusing itself of copyright infringement.

The computing giant – who recently lost its trademark battle in the English courts with Sky – engages the services of a variety of companies to combat copyright pirates on the internet. These companies scan the internet for new content which potentially infringes on Microsoft’s copyright and, when they find a site which potentially infringes Microsoft’s copyright, writes to Google to request that it remove the infringing pages. However, one of these companies apparently wrote to Google last week to request that some of Microsoft’s own websites be taken down for alleged infringement of copyright.

This mistake was apparently first spotted by Torrentfreak, a website devoted to news, BitTorrent and copyright. TorrentFreak – which had earlier reported that over 100 million “takedown” requests had already been received by Google this year – spotted the error in a leaked copy of a DMCA takedown request and posted it on its website.

As the PC World article highlights, erroneous takedown requests point out that blanket takedown requests can be potentially extremely harmful – they can force Google to remove legitimate, non-infringing web pages from the internet because of human error or an incorrectly-programmed algorithm. Copyright holders certainly have the lawful right to request the takedown of sites that do actually infringe on copyright but the number of takedown requests are increasing and erroneous requests keep coming out of the woodwork – figures released by Google this year show that the number of takedown requests per week from copyright holders has increased from 225,000 to 3.5 to 4.5 million this year. Past Microsoft takedown requests include the targetting of the US Environmental Protection Agency, the National Institutes of Health, Techcrunch, the BBC and even Google itself.

Chris Hadrill, a solicitor at Redmans commented: “It is obviously important that the rights of copyright holders be protected. However, erroneous takedown requests can cause both legal and practical problems for the affected parties.”

Microsoft responded to the PC World article in the following fashion: “We believe strongly in the effectiveness and the need for accuracy in the use of notice and takedown to address online infringement. To explain what happened here, Google’s online form requires identification of both the copyrighted content being infringed and the website address of the infringement. A vendor properly listed those six URLs as Microsoft copyrighted content that was being infringed, but then inadvertently copied and pasted those same six URLs in the field to identify the locations of infringement. This simple clerical error was identified and corrected right away, and we have taken steps to address the process to avoid it being repeated”.

Redmans Solicitors are employment solicitors based in Richmond, London, offering employment law advice to employees and employers

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