App developers have encountered unfortunate experiences with Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedowns. In May, Google Play suspended his Android TV app Downloader due to complaints from Israeli TV companies. They claimed that the app had the potential to be used for accessing pirate websites. The app combines a web browser with a file manager.
After three weeks, Google decided to lift the suspension. However, Google Play has once again suspended Downloader, and this time the reason is even more perplexing. It seems that Downloader was suspended due to a DMCA notice, which was based on its ability to load the Warner Bros.
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The downloader functions similarly to standard web browsers, allowing users to access both legally and illegally shared content. The app is versatile and can be used for various web-browsing purposes. It also allows users to easily download files from any desired website by simply inputting the URL. As per Saba’s statement, the app does not contain any infringing content and does not guide users towards such content.
Saba received a notification from Google last night, informing them that the app has been suspended once again. This information was shared with Ars. “According to the notice from Google, your app is said to contain content that may infringe upon the copyright of others and violate applicable copyright laws in the relevant country or jurisdiction,” the notice stated.
The notice contains a copy of the DMCA complaint, which was sent by MarkScan, a company that content owners hire to protect their digital assets and enforce copyrights. According to the complaint, MarkScan is representing Warner Bros. Discovery, Inc.
Warner Bros. Discovery: A Closer Look
A DMCA notice is required to identify and provide a description of the copyrighted work that has been infringed. However, the notice from MarkScan regarding Downloader only mentions the copyrighted work as “Properties of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.” The information regarding which Warner Bros. work was infringed by Downloader is not provided.
In order to comply with the DMCA, it is necessary to include an example of where individuals can find an authorized representation of the work. MarkScan entered the main Warner Bros. URL, which is https://www.warnerbros.com/.
“MarkScan’s notice stated that they firmly believe that the use of the copyrighted materials mentioned above, which are being accused of infringement, is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law.”
Not surprisingly, Saba is filled with anger. “It’s surprising that Google doesn’t even bother to verify the validity of the takedown request,” he mentioned to Ars today. The field in the takedown where the claimant needs to specify the location of the copyright infringement lacks any specific information. If the absence of information alone can result in the removal of an app, then it seems that no app in the Google Play Store is immune to suspension through a simple request.
The Downloader app had reached over 10 million installations before it was taken down, as indicated by an Internet Archive capture prior to its recent suspension.
Developer Seeks to Appeal
Saba filed an appeal today, but unfortunately, Google Play rejected it within just 24 minutes. Saba mentioned that he has also submitted a DMCA counter-notice. This allows the complainant a period of 10 business days from today to initiate any legal proceedings. Following his initial takedown in May, his app was restored as the DMCA complainant chose not to pursue any legal action.
Saba wrote a blog post today discussing the latest takedown. “Since my app has always been free of any copyright-infringing content, I have responded to this new DMCA takedown in hopes that the app will be reinstated in the near future,” he expressed. “Meanwhile, you have the option to manually install the app on your Google TV or Android TV devices. Simply download the APK file from the provided link: https://www.aftvnews.com/downloader.apk.” The downloader app can still be accessed on Fire TV devices through the Amazon Appstore.
In Saba’s blog post, she expressed her frustration with Google’s lack of effort in verifying copyright claims for her app. She found it absurd that her app, which is simply a web browser capable of downloading files and contains no content, was not thoroughly checked.
In May, Saba voiced similar concerns about Google’s DMCA system. “If loading a website with infringing content in a standard web browser is considered a violation of DMCA, then it would be logical to remove every browser in the Google Play Store, including @googlechrome.” He expressed his disagreement with the claim, stating that it was absurd and a misuse of the DMCA.
Google is Aware of Misuse of DMCA
It is evident that Google is well aware of the frequent abuse of its system for handling DMCA complaints. In a recent development, Google has taken legal action against a group of individuals who are alleged to have misused the DMCA in order to eliminate rival websites from appearing in search results.
According to Google, it stated in its lawsuit that it is required to rely on the claims made by copyright claimants in takedown requests, as per the DMCA. According to Google, the law places a strong emphasis on the integrity and sincerity of copyright claimants. It requires them to provide a statement under penalty of perjury and assumes that the information they submit is accurate.
According to Google’s lawsuit, they utilize a combination of human manual review and automation to assess takedown requests associated with Google Search results. According to Google, they utilize this process to verify that a takedown request includes the necessary elements outlined by the DMCA. However, Google does not independently verify whether the URLs in question actually contain infringing content.
Today, we reached out to Google to inquire about the suspension of Downloader. We wanted to understand why it was suspended solely based on a DMCA notice that did not mention a specific infringing work. Additionally, we were curious to know if Google has any measures in place to prevent recurring suspensions of apps that are mistakenly targeted. We reached out to Warner Bros. regarding the DMCA notice and will provide an update to this article if we receive a response from either company.