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Microsoft's DMCA takedown fiasco

Apparently, Microsoft has a web crawler that digs around for stolen content and, without any actual human verification, sends out a Digital Millennium Copyright Act takedown notice for copyright violations.

Its crawler is poorly programmed, though, and the resulting takedown notices are bogus. The worst part is that some sort of arrangement with Google causes the websites cited by Microsoft to be taken off the Google search engine.

Google seems to do zero research because while making $24 billion (£15bn) in profit on sales of $43 billion (£26.8bn), it cannot afford to hire a few people to check on whether or not a takedown notice is legitimate.

After all, who cares? Google would rather stash money in its coffers than do any work that benefits the hapless public. Why can't Google take a mere billion dollars from its $41 billion (£21.5bn) bank account and hire people to protect the integrity of its search results? If it paid each new hire $50,000 (£31,000) a year to check the DMCA takedowns from Microsoft, it could employ 20,000 people! That could certainly get the job done.

(opens in new tab)Instead, it seems that Google wants to mindlessly obey the Microsoft robot.

The BBC reports (opens in new tab):

Google has put the BBC on an approved list, so its pages were not affected. Other sites targeted - which included Buzzfeed, the Huffington Post and Techcrunch - were similarly unaffected. However, other sites like AMC Theaters and RealClearPolitics, who were also wrongly accused, had pages taken off Google search results.

So this is interesting. It sounds as if the Google search engine does indeed play favourites. Buzzfeed can do no wrong despite the takedown notice, but RealClearPolitics is shuttered by the search engine. Can this lead to some sort of restraint of trade suit? I'd hope so.

The real joke in this latest episode of Internet censorship is that the Microsoft bot was looking for the number 45. Apparently, if you use the number 45, you are in violation of the DMCA.

Again, from the BBC article:

For example, a BBC page following Day 45 of the Olympic Torch Relay was on the takedown list, as was a Wikipedia article on Caesar's Civil War, which ended in 45 BC.

Microsoft has not said why it was issuing takedown orders over the number 45, but there it is.

So here's my question: why are bots doing this in the first place?

Let's see, the bot goes out and finds what it is programmed to find, then sends out a canned DMCA takedown notice and sends it in to another bot that kills the site. Oh, ok.

I mentioned earlier that Google makes $24 billion (£15bn) in profit and has $41 billion (£21.5bn) in the bank. Well, Microsoft makes $56 billion (£35bn) in profit each year and has $62 billion (£38.7bn) in the bank yet it cannot hire one lone person to check on the work of these bots. Really? It's shameful. A complete disregard for the public welfare.