NBCUniversal is saying it made a mistake Tuesday after it asked Google Inc. to remove links to several news articles about leaked Hollywood movies. In a statement to International Business Times, a spokesman for the media giant chalked up the takedown requests to a technical glitch causing the articles to be erroneously flagged as containing copyright-infringing material.
“These requests resulted from an inadvertent error that occurred while changes were being made to technical processes in our notice sending operations,” the spokesman said. “As soon as the problem was identified, we investigated, and resolved the error.”
The articles in question appeared on the popular tech blog TorrentFreak, which reports on piracy-related news and had recently covered a number of instances in which leaked versions of major Hollywood films were showing up online. One Jan. 8 article reported on an “unprecedented fast flood” of leaked screener copies of Oscar-nominated movies. TorrentFreak reported on the leaks but did not link to the allegedly offending material.
In February, TorrentFreak URLs were included in eight takedown requests sent to Google by NBCUniversal. When TorrentFreak’s editor, who writes under the pseudonym “Ernesto Van Der Sar,” caught wind of the requests, he posted a story Sunday accusing NBCUniversal of trying to “censor” news stories about leaked films.
“In an attempt to make it harder for people to find pirated copies of its movies, NBC Universal has tried to remove several TorrentFreak articles from Google's search results,” wrote Van Der Sar, who is based in the Netherlands.
Copyright owners -- and reporting organizations that represent them -- use a number of automated and manual methods to scour the Internet for alleged infringements. When allegedly infringing material is discovered, companies may send a removal request asking Google to wipe links to the material from its search results.
NBCUniversal, which is owned by Comcast Corp., is among the most aggressive copyright owners in the country. Over the last four years, the company has asked Google to remove more than 16.9 million URLs, according to Google’s Transparency Report.
In the case of TorrentFreak, Google chose not to honor the requests, and Van Der Sar confirmed with IBTimes that all eight of the flagged articles remained online as of Tuesday.
NBCUniversal said the glitch was corrected and would not be repeated.