Google Play keeps blocking the same web browser due to vague DMCA notices – Ars Technica

Google Play keeps blocking the same web browser due to vague DMCA notices – Ars Technica

Screenshot of the Google home page displayed on Downloader, an Android app with a built-in browser.
Zoom in / Downloader app suspended from Google Play.

App developer Elias Saba has had some bad luck with DMCA takedowns. Its Android TV app, which combines a web browser and file manager, was suspended by Google Play in May after several Israeli TV companies complained that the app could be used to load a pirate website.

Google rescinded this suspension three weeks later. But Downloader has been suspended by Google Play again, and this time it’s hard to understand why. Based on a vague DMCA notice, it appears that Downloader was suspended simply because it could download Warner Bros.’s website.

The downloader is similar to standard web browsers in that it allows users to access both legal content and illegally shared content. The application can be used for general web browsing and can download files from the website when the user enters the desired URL. According to Saba, the application itself does not contain infringing content, and does not direct users to infringing content.

Google informed Saba that the app had been suspended again last night, according to the notice that Saba shared with Ars. “Your app contains content that allegedly infringes the copyrights of others, and violates applicable copyright laws in the relevant country/jurisdiction,” the notice from Google said.

The notice includes a copy of the DMCA complaint, which came from MarkScan, a “digital asset protection” company hired by content owners to enforce copyrights. MarkScan said in its complaint that it represents Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.

“Warner Bros. Discovery Properties”

The DMCA Notice is supposed to identify and describe the copyrighted work that has been infringed. But MarkScan’s notice on Downloader identifies the copyrighted work only as “properties of Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.” It does not provide any details about any Warner Bros. work. Violated by Downloader.

The DMCA Notice is also supposed to provide an example of where someone can see an “authorized example of the work.” In this field, MarkScan simply enters the main Warner Bros. URL: https://www.warnerbros.com/.

“I have a good faith belief that use of the copyrighted materials described above as allegedly infringing is not authorized by the copyright owner, its agent, or the law,” MarkScan’s notice said.

Unsurprisingly, Saba is angry. “You would think that Google would at least verify that the takedown request actually makes a reasonable claim,” he told Ars Today. “The most important field in the takedown process, where the plaintiff must identify where the copyright infringement occurred, is devoid of all details. If this complete lack of information was all that was needed to remove an app, no app in the Google Play Store would be taken down.” You’re safe from being suspended with just a few clicks and a trivial removal request.”

The Downloader app has been installed more than 10 million times, according to the Internet Archive, which was taken before the recent suspension.

Developer calls

Saba appealed the removal today but told us Google Play rejected the appeal after 24 minutes. Saba said he also filed a DMCA counter-notice, which gives the complainant 10 business days from today to file a legal claim. After its initial takedown in May, it was reinstated after the DMCA plaintiff took no legal action.

Saba also wrote a blog post today about the recent takedown. “Given that my app still doesn’t contain any copyright infringement content and never did, I’m faced with a new DMCA takedown, which hopefully means the app will be restored at some point within,” he wrote. “The coming weeks.” “In the meantime, you can download the app to your Google TV or Android TV devices by downloading the APK from https://www.aftvnews.com/downloader.apk. The downloader remains available on Fire TV devices directly from the Amazon Appstore.”

Saba’s blog post called it “ridiculous that Google appears to make no effort at all to verify copyright claims made on my app which is just a web browser that can download files and contains no content of any kind.”

Saba filed similar complaints about Google’s DMCA system in May. “If loading a website with infringing content in a standard web browser is enough to violate the DMCA, then every browser in the Google Play Store including @googlechrome should also be removed. It is a ridiculous claim and an abuse of the DMCA.” and publish digital materials,” he wrote on the site. the time.

Google is aware of the abuse of the DMCA

Google is clearly aware that its DMCA complaint handling system is routinely abused. On November 13, Google filed a lawsuit against a group of people accused of weaponizing the DMCA to remove competitors’ sites from search results.

Google said in its lawsuit that it is obligated, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, to trust the assertions made by copyright claimants in takedown requests. Google said the law “relies on the honesty and good faith of copyright claimants, requiring them to support their claims with a statement under penalty of perjury and to rely on the accuracy of the information they provide.”

Google also said in its lawsuit that it “reviews takedown requests related to Google search results using a combination of human manual review and automation.” Google said it uses this process to ensure that a takedown request contains the elements required by the DMCA. But Google does not itself verify whether allegedly infringing URLs actually contain infringing content.

We contacted Google today to ask why Downloader was suspended based on a DMCA notice that did not cite a specific infringing act, and whether Google is doing anything to prevent repeated suspensions of wrongly targeted apps. We’ve also contacted Warner Bros. regarding the DMCA Notice, and we will update this article if we hear back from either company.

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