File hosting service Hotfile has turned the tables on Warner Bros., filing suit against the entertainment company for negligence, violation of the DMCA, and intentional interference with a contractual or business relationship. The action asserts that Warner Bros. used its anti-piracy practices and technology to take down hundreds of files over which the studio held no rights.
Warner Bros. is one of the five major studios that sued Hotfile earlier this year over copyright infringement offenses. That case, the first of its kind, is ongoing and accuses Hotfile of facilitating copyright infringement “on a staggering scale,” and asserts that Hotfile “profits handsomely” from distributing pirated material
Several years ago, Hotfile created a Special Rightsholder Account (SRA) for the studio which comes with an anti-piracy tool so it can remove infringing content from Hotfile by itself. According to the legal documents, Hotfile contends Warner Bros. took down open source software and game demos that were being legally shared, along with other files it didn’t hold the copyright to.
“Worse, Warner continued to make these misrepresentations even after Hotfile explicitly brought this rampant abuse to Warner’s attention, ruling out any possibility that its wrongful actions were accidental or unknowing,” Hotfile writes in its complaint, as reported by TorrentFreak.
Some of Warner Bros.’ takedowns seem the result of an automatic script the studio used to find infringing content, based on similarity of file titles. The one file it took down more than any other, however – five times more frequently than any other file, according to Hotfile – was a freeware software title uploaded by its own publisher to further its distribution.
Echoing the studio’s charges against Hotfile, the file hosting service further believes there may be a profit motive to Warner Bros.’ actions. Hotfile said the studio had proposed an affiliate deal under which removed files would be replaced with links to a retailer of legitimate Warner Bros. movies. “By increasing the number of links it was taking down with Hotfile’s SRA, and indeed falsely inflating these numbers, Warner was increasing the number of times it could present ecommerce links to Hotfile’s users for its own enrichment,” Hotfile said in the complaint.
TorrentFreak – http://tinyurl.com/6fegca2
GigaOm – http://tinyurl.com/6ewml2a
MPAA’s suit against Hotfile (PDF) – http://tinyurl.com/6js9436
Photo by flickr user Kerry Woo, used under Creative Commons license