Whenever we hear new or renewed calls for more ways for antipiracy outfits and copyright holders to extrajudicially get content and/or sites taken down, there always seems to be one curious omission in the discussion: that antipiracy outfits generally suck at identifying actual infringing content. This is a strange omission, considering that creating ways for content to be taken down without a court's oversight rests the entire reputation for this practice on reports of infringement being accurate. Those of us who have taken to screaming how ripe all of this is for abuse do so because of the collateral damage it causes. Claims to the contrary have to rely on reports generally being accurate.
They aren't. In fact, they aren't even close. It's not going too far to say that antipiracy groups of all entities should be well-suited in identifying piracy. And, yet, they quite often target innocent sites that simply post factual information that does not include pirated files, including sites that do factual reporting on torrent availability. One such site is SweTracker, which focuses on detailing Nordic torrent releases, when they become available, and to whom they are attributed.
While many PreDb-style sites monitor for ‘Scene’ releases using information culled from IRC, SweTracker monitors BitTorrent trackers and publishes information on who won the ‘race’ to put content online first. It does not link to any pirate content whatsoever but anti-piracy companies regularly report the site to Google.
And, yet, SweTracker has been reported to Google hundreds of times in the past year alone as hosting illegal content. These reports have largely flooded in from antipiracy outfits, despite the simple fact that SweTracker hosts no infringing files and instead only reports on factual information. The site's operator mostly shrugs his shoulders at all of this, but also points the general impression he has that antipiracy outfits don't have a clue as to what they're doing.
“My personal experience with [anti-piracy companies] is that they don’t really know how stuff works. They often state that users can download or stream movies directly from SweTracker, but that’s simply not true,” he explains. “But, I try to make life easy and do remove the releases they ask me to remove. They have contacted me via email several times.”
It almost goes without saying that SweTracker isn't some outlier in all of this. It's also worth noting that this sort of harassment doesn't typically end with a sternly worded email. Instead, Google often errs on the side of delisting the links in its search results, and antipiracy outfits often times go to site host providers and try to get the sites taken down entirely.
PreDb.org states clearly on its main page that “There are absolutely NO downloads of copyright-protected works, hyperlinks to downloads, torrent files, magnet links, nzb files or similar content on any part of this web site” but that doesn’t prevent complaints.
Google’s Transparency Report indicates that at the time of writing, PreDb.org has had 2,204 URLs reported by content and anti-piracy companies, with Google removing the links from its indexes approximately 65% of the time.
To be clear, antipiracy outfits are censoring simple factual data in the name of copyright. Whether or not you find the factual data in question interesting or useful is entirely besides the point and doesn't make a lick of difference in the validity of the takedowns. Here we are, fresh into 2019, with rightsholders and antipiracy groups waging a clusterbomb war against piracy as their precision in doing so goes largely unquestioned, all while very real collateral damage is endured by innocent sites.
Keep that in mind whenever copyright maximalists ask for just a bit more power to censor the internet.