Amazon has launched three lawsuits against organizations it alleges were misusing its takedown system by submitting tens of thousands of false copyright claims against other products in an effort to persuade customers to buy their goods instead. The cases are described by the corporation as a “new offensive against bad actors” in a statement released on Thursday.
According to the cases, the alleged wrongdoers didn’t simply register fictitious complaints and then wait to see if they were effective. The parties also “built phony, ephemeral websites, with product photos taken from the Amazon shop,” according to Amazon, and attempted to use those as proof that they were the rightful copyright owners. It takes a remarkable amount of boldness to literally replicate an image and then use it as proof that the person you copied it from is stealing from you. This is darkly humorous.
One defendant, registered under the name “Sidesk,” is accused by Amazon of going over and beyond. According to the complaint, it entered the Amazon Brand Registry program, which enables businesses to look for and control scans of phony listings that mimic their items, using a “fraudulent” trademark application. Amazon alleges Sidesk used the trademark despite the US Patent and Trademark Office canceling the application.
With Sidesk, the rabbit hole widens even more. The Patent and Trademark Office allegedly penalized Shenzhen Huanyee Intellectual Property Co., Ltd. for “filing over 15,800 trademark applications using false, fictitious, or fraudulent domicile information and/or credentials,” according to the lawsuit. The company is said to have filed the trademark application.
With almost 3,850 takedown requests, Sidesk was also by far the greatest offender, according to Amazon’s litigation. The other two, Dhuog and Vivcic, allegedly filed 229 and 59 lawsuits over a period of months. They were occasionally successful, according to the cases. In a few specific instances, the defendants’ plan was successful, and several product listings’ relevant documents were momentarily removed from the Amazon Store in response to the defendants’ unfounded complaints.
Obviously, there are valid purposes for Amazon’s mechanisms for handling Digital Millennium Copyright Act (or DMCA) takedown requests. For example, if someone tried to sell a shirt with a Mickey Mouse design, Disney would have the legal right to remove it because it owns the character’s copyright (for now). But, as these instances demonstrate, it can be challenging to strike a balance between making it simple for bona fide claims to have things removed from the internet and developing a system that criminals can abuse. Although nothing is perfect, Amazon claims to have “a variety of powerful measures in place to detect and stop bad actors from trying to submit fraudulent and abusive notifications of infringement.”
Yet, the issue is not limited to Amazon. YouTube users have long complained that the site’s copyright claim system allows businesses and criminals to file bogus claims to blackmail a creator or seize their ad revenue, frequently (but not always) without facing any actual repercussions. In the event that Amazon’s lawsuits are successful, they might discourage potential system abusers.
Alexis Boutilier is from Vancouver, British Columbia. She has a high interest in all things tech and loves to stay engaged on all the latest appliances and accessories.