The Google Freak Out

Something that freaks me out more than anything online is seeing some of my websites or pages disappearing from Google’s index from time to time. There is generally a good reason for that to happen and troubleshooting the issue quickly and thoroughly can help you save tons of “leaking traffic”. I had a similar problem over the weekend. Let me tell you what happened and how I fixed it. (more…)

Finding out the hard way that linking to infringing content is illegal

For the last month or so I have been listing cracked iPhone applications and games on my iPhone website, thinking that what I was doing was totally legal. After all, I was not the one cracking these iPhone applications and I was not the one making them available online. I was simply linking to them in order to let people know where to get them.

Everything was doing pretty well. I was averaging 1,600 visits per day (and growing fast!) on my iPhone blog. 90% of my traffic came for one reason: finding out where to get all these cracked iPhone apps. That was until 1.50pm today…

I checked by email inbox and saw an email from DreamHost, my hosting company. The subject line was: “URGENT: DMCA Takedown Notification”. That didn’t smell good…

Here is the body of the email I received:

Hello Sebastien,We have received a formal DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) notice regarding allegedly infringing content hosted on your site. The specific content in question is as follows:

http://www.iphonedownloadblog.com/the-ultimate-list-of-cracked-games-for-iphone/

The party making the complaint (Ian Ramage, O’Melveny & Myers LLP, Phone: 415.984.8783 ,e-mail: iramage@omm.com), claims under penalty of perjury to be or represent the copyright owner of this content. Pursuant to 17 U.S.C. § 512(c), we have removed access to the content in question.

http://www.loc.gov/copyright/title17/92chap5.html#512

If you believe that these works belong to you and that the copyright ownership claims of this party are false, you may file a DMCA counter-notification in the form described by the DMCA, asking that the content in question be reinstated. Unless we receive notice from the complaining party that a lawsuit has been filed to restrain you from posting the content, we will reinstate the content in question within 10-14 days after receiving your counter-notification (which will also be forwarded on to the party making the complaint).

In the meantime, we ask that you do not replace the content in question, or in any other way distribute it in conjunction with our services. Please also be advised that copyright violation is strictly against our Terms and Conditions, and such offenses risk resulting in immediate disablement of your account should you not cooperate (not to mention the legal risk to you if they are true).

http://www.dreamhost.com/tos.html

We also ask that if you are indeed infringing upon the copyright associated with these works that you delete them from your account immediately, and let us know once this has been done.

We also ask that you delete any other infringing works not listed in this takedown notification, if they exist. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let us know.

Glen,

I was wondering who this “Ian Ramage, O’Melveny & Myers LLP” law firm was. It didn’t take me too long to find out it actually is Apple’s law firm!

At first, I emailed Ian Ramage, the Attorney that filed the DMCA notice to tell him I was not doing anything illegal, that I was just pointing to cracked applications, but I didn’t crack them or uploaded them to servers.

In the meanwhile, I did some research. I read part of the US copyright law and didn’t find anything relevant. All this legal jargon is Chinese to me.

Then I stumbled upon an article that states that linking to infringing content is probably illegal in the US.

Here is what this website says:

Summary: There have been 3 court cases in the US where sites were forced to take down links leading to infringing material on external sites. The sites were found guilty of ‘contributory infringement’ for simply linking.

Although unclear the law leans in favor of content owner so if you linked to copyrighted material and don’t take it down you could very well lose a legal battle and face huge legal fees. Even blogs are at risk!

Lock and ChainA large number of cases never reach the courts where sites are served with takedown notices and dare not risk ignoring them as they may otherwise face liability.

Are copyright laws out of control and infringing our own right to share information and discuss what is available on the web?

Is Linking to Infringing Content Illegal in the US? Like it or not the short answer is yes. I don’t agree with it or like it but its true. The law currently leans towards the concept that linking to infringing content is illegal.

At first, I was pissed. After thinking about it, I am really pissed! It is not like I am linking to kiddie porn or something.

DreamHost did an outstanding job at helping me out with this issue. Glen, the CSR at DreamHost, was on top of it, replying to my emails within minutes to advice me on what to do. The $140/year I pay them is very well spent. Although they have downtime every once in a while, their service is just first-class.

Oh well, lesson learned.