Google yesterday sued a group of people who allegedly used the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) weapon to remove competitor websites from search results. Over the past few years, foreign defendants “created at least 65 Google accounts in order to post thousands of fraudulent notices of copyright infringement to more than 117,000 third-party website URLs,” Google said. snake filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California.
Another 500,000 URLs were also targeted, according to Google. “To date, the defendants’ plan has forced Google to investigate and respond to fraudulent takedown requests targeting more than 117,000 third-party website URLs, and takedown requests targeting more than half a million other third-party URLs that may be fraudulent based on preliminary investigation,” the lawsuit said.
Google filed the lawsuit against Nguyen Van Duc and Pham Van Thien, who both say they live in Vietnam, and 20 unidentified defendants. Google alleges that the defendants “appear to be affiliated with websites selling printed t-shirts, and their illegal conduct is intended to exclude competing third-party sellers from Google search results .”
Google hopes to use the court system to prevent further copyright abuse. But the lawsuit helps show how easy it is for fraudsters to game Google’s system for responding to DMCA notices.
“The defendants have taken notice of the copyright law’s process-and-transfer process and used it not for the purpose of its decision to remove the infringing content quickly, but rather to remove the legitimate content of their competitors based on the false accusation,” the lawsuit says. “Defendants’ legal, fraudulent intent harms consumers, third-party businesses, and Google; prevent competition; and threatens to damage Google’s trusted brand.”
Google says it removes a “significant” number of search results based on fraudulent disclosures. “Unfortunately, to ensure compliance with the DMCA and in reliance on information submitted at Defendants’ requests, Google’s system removed a significant number of third-party website URLs targeted by Defendants for a period of time before Google and/or websites’. The owners determine what is happening and take appropriate steps to restore the URLs,” Google said.
The defendants identified Elon Musk and Amazon
According to Google, some or all of the 20 Doe defendants “are individuals or companies acting at the direction of and/or in active concert with Defendants Nguyen and Pham to prepare and submit thousands of requests Fraudulent takedown to Google.”
In most of the defendants’ series of takedown requests, which ran from August to December 2022, they allegedly “submitted fraudulent takedown requests targeting more than 35,000 website URLs from the customer A Google that spends tens of millions of dollars per year on Search Ads.” The customer’s website traffic fell during the 2022 holiday season, “resulting in over $5 million in revenue losses for that customer (and its vendors), with a corresponding loss to Google of between $2 and $3 million , before Google is able to retrieve all of the targeted URLs,” the lawsuit said.
Defendants provided fake names in their admissions requests and “falsely purported to represent large corporations (e.g., Amazon, Twitter, NBC News), sports teams (e.g., the Philadelphia Eagles, Los Angeles Lakers, San Diego Padres), famous people (e.g., Elon Musk, Taylor Swift, LeVar Burton, Kanye West), and famous bands (e.g., Blink 182),” Google’s lawsuit says.
For example, “The defendants falsely claimed to represent Elon Musk, who allegedly infringed on a t-shirt with a logo with the word ‘Pharmacy Technician,'” the lawsuit said. The defendants falsely claimed they represented Amazon in a notice alleging “we infringed on a t-shirt with the words ‘In 2006 Beyonce said to the left, to the left and My political compass was born,'” Google said. .
In other release notices, the defendants were accused of listing fake company names or providing “obvious information in the company name field on the Copyright website, such as ‘TESTTT’ and ‘This is funny game.’”
“Defendants signed and submitted thousands of fraudulent waiver requests containing false information under penalty of perjury,” Google said.