News Corp.’s (NASDAQ:NWS) (NASDAQ:NWSA) HarperCollins, one of the world’s largest publishing companies, recently requested that Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) remove search engine links to some of its own books on Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes in what appears to be a poorly executed attempt to fight online piracy, reports TorrentFreak. HarperCollins made the takedown requests through Digimarc (NASDAQ:DMRC), a company that provides anti-piracy protection for publishers and authors.
As seen in the screenshot above, Digimarc’s takedown requests included eight links to HarperCollins e-books offered through Apple’s iTunes Store. The eight targeted books are all mystery novels written by Agatha Christie, including Motive v. Opportunity: A Miss Marple Short Story, Death on the Nile, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Poirot Investigates, Poirot and the Regatta Mystery, Postern of Fate (Tommy & Tuppence), and Problem at Pollensa Bay. As noted by TorrentFreak, HarperCollins acquired the rights to eighty of Christie’s works in 2010.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only set of misguided takedown requests that Digimarc submitted on HarperCollins’ behalf. TorrentFreak discovered several other takedown notices from Digimarc that also requested the removal of HarperCollins’ own Agatha Christie books from iTunes. Not surprisingly, Google has rejected the majority of Digimarc’s poorly researched takedown requests, including the links to Apple’s iTunes. Out of the 1,000 takedown requests in the first notice, Google refused to comply with 914 requests. From another set of 1,000 takedown requests, Google rejected 917.
Oddly enough, Digimarc even targeted iTunes links to Agatha Christie books that haven’t been released yet. In other words, HarperCollins was accusing itself by proxy of pirating its own books before they had even been released.
Digimarc’s website claims that it “is the global leader in protecting books, publications and documents from the threat of digital piracy. Our service finds and removes pirated content across the web to protect publisher revenues and author rights through an integration takedown process that delivers high removal rates across various website types.”
Besides serving HarperCollins, Digimarc also provides its anti-piracy service for Simon & Schuster, Random House, and Scholastic (NASDAQ:SCHL). Although Digimarc noted that its anti-piracy service is “Highly automated,” it also claimed that it uses two levels of human validation before proceeding with a takedown request. However, Digimarc’s repeated takedown requests that target officially-licensed content on Apple’s iTunes seem to suggest that the company’s overall process may need to be reevaluated.
HarperCollins may be familiar to some Apple watchers as one of the five publishers that were involved in the e-book price-fixing conspiracy that Apple was found guilty of orchestrating. Apple filed a notice of appeal against the verdict and is also currently trying to get the antitrust compliance monitor removed from his position. HarperCollins settled its antitrust case with the government without going to trial.
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