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TF1 claims copyright over junk — demands takedown

Posted by on November 4, 2014.

You couldn’t make it up if you tried. MalwareMustDie posts and shares malware/junk samples for other security researchers on MediaFire. But MediaFire has taken down one sample because it allegedly infringes copyright, according to a tweet a few hours ago:

MalwareMustDieTweet

MalwareMustDie also shared the letter it received from Mediafire:

MediaFire's takedown explanation to MalwareMustDie

MediaFire’s takedown explanation to MalwareMustDie

At first glance this is hilarious. The French TV station TF1 is claiming intellectual property rights over a malware/junk sample. There have been those who suggest TF1 has no intellectual property, merely unintellectual property based on its standard fare. Be that as it may, DMCA section 512 has been invoked and MediaFire has complied.

TF1 has a right wing history. In 2009 one of its employees was fired for criticizing the French HADOPI law in a private mail to a politician. The criticism was reported back to TF1 and the employee was sacked. In 2004, the then CEO of TF1, Patrick Le Lay, said, “TF1’s job is helping Coca-Cola, for example, to sell its product. What we sell to Coca-Cola is available human brain time.”

But after the absurdity of the takedown letter comes the reality. TF1 said ‘this belongs to us’, and MediaFire has accepted its claim, apparently with no investigation.

The first question must be, why has TF1 made this claim (unless, of course, it is genuinely claiming that it is the author of the malware/junk concerned). It is probably a mistake. It is probably because some automated robot has been crawling the internet looking for content that is genuinely copyright, and found and misinterpreted this file. That robot generated an automated system that led to the legal letter being despatched and MediaFire’s automated submission.

This is a huge problem with DMCA section 512. Once a letter has been delivered, providers tend to comply automatically. That is the simple route. The alternative would be to risk costly court battles against opponents who have very deep pockets. Knowing this, rightsholders have little incentive to ensure each takedown demand is valid — indeed, the more they send, the less likely that any will be queried.

But what if it wasn’t an error but done on purpose. It still doesn’t need to be valid — it could be a way for TF1 to punish MalwareMustDie for some obscure offence. And that is another danger from DMCA section 512 — it can be used for political/economic purposes.

In March 2010, EFF published a paper titled, Unintended Consequences: Twelve Years under the DMCA. It includes a long, very long list of 512 takedown demands — for example,

  • Apple Threatens BluWiki
  • DMCA Delays Disclosure of Sony-BMG “Rootkit” Vulnerability
  • SunnComm Threatens Researcher
  • Professor Felten’s Research Team Threatened
  • Hewlett Packard Threatens SNOsoft
  • Censorware Research Obstructed

and many, many more.

So, while laughing at the absurdity of TF1’s letter, just consider — this really is no laughing matter at all.


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