Entertainment giant Warner Bros has admitted to a US federal court that it removed content from online download site Hotfile, despite the fact that it didn't own copyright on the material.
The suit alleging the illegal takedowns was originally filed (opens in new tab)against Warner Bros back in September, with Hotfile claiming that after it acquiesced to Warner Bros' request to give the studio the ability to directly remove its content from the download site, that Warner abused its position. This is the first time Warner Bros has admitted acting improperly.
Instead of responsing to takedown requests from Warner Bros, Hotfile provided the studio with a tool that allowed it to remove offending files itself.
"Warner has made repeated, reckless and irresponsible misrepresentations to Hotfile, falsely claiming to own copyrights in material from Hotfile.com," said Hotfile in the complaint.
Warner Brothers responded with a statement, admitting that it had not thoroughly reviewed the contents of all files it sought to take down, reports file-sharing news website Torrentfreak (opens in new tab):
“Warner further admits that, 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 through use of the SRA tool.
“Warner admits that, as one component of its takedown process, Warner utilizes automated software to assist in locating files on the Internet believed to contain unauthorized Warner content."
Most of the problems involve a 2009 movie called The Box (opens in new tab). When utilising the automated tool to search for this title, Warner Brothers included take down requests for titles including The Box that Changed Britain and Cancer Step Outsider of the Box.
More controversially still, Warner Brothers has also admitted to deliberately - and without the use of an automated tool - taking down open-source software from the site that would help speed up downloads for users.
Despite this, Warner hopes to have the case dismissed, claiming that most of the files it removed did not have the permission of the copyright holder to be freely downloadable - suggesting that Warner now considers itself some sort of file-sharing vigilante.
It will be interesting to see if the court awards damages to Hotfile. File-sharing sites haven't often received positive treatment from courts in the past - but it seems that in this situation, it has the legal and moral high ground.