Pat Pilcher: HBO issues take down on VLC

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Chances are that if you own a PC and use a lot of different video file formats you've already got the VLC video player installed.

It works with nearly any video format, and is easy to use. It's also free so there's lots of reasons to like VLC.

Unless of course you're HBO who have sent a takedown notice to Google, listing VLC amongst other infringing content they want the search giant to remove from their search results.

Takedown notices are nothing new. Last month Google were asked to remove an just under 15 million links from their search results.

What is more worrying however is that not all take down requests are legit as illustrated by Warner Bros and NBC Universal's recent request to have Google remove Mega from search results.

Unfortunately the massive scale of copyrighted infringement means that copyright holders have to use automated systems to detect and request take downs.

This unfortunately results in some content being incorrectly identified as copyright infringing. Even though Google goes to some effort to keeps false positives and bogus takedown notices to a minimum, the massive volumes of requests they're flooded with means that they can't possibly spot them all.

The request for Google to remove a link to VLC, (which as an open source application is highly unlikely to be infringing any copyright, let alone any HBO copyrights) is a prime example of this.

The sheer bizarreness of HBO's move aside, it also highlights a serious flaw in the way that copyright infringement is being handled. There are no penalties for incorrect or bogus take down notices, so there's little to no incentive for copyright owners to check before issuing them.

This is really worrying as the consequences of being removed from a search engine such as Google's search results can be devastating for a small software company like the creators of VLC who are dependent on search results from Google to bring new downloaders (and potential donators) to their site.

Removing VLC from search engine results could have dire consequences even though there is clearly no way VLC has infringed copyright.
Just as Google did not act on the request to remove links to Mega, so it also appears sanity has thankfully prevailed and Google have not yet acted on the take down notices issued by HBO. Surely there has to be a better way?

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