Microsoft Sends CultofMac a DMCA Takedown — For Linking To Windows 7 Beta?

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UPDATE: Microsoft has canceled the legal threat. I just got an email directly from DtecNet, the anti-piracy company working with Microsoft, saying they have formally withdrawn the notice. There was no explanation why — or why it was issued it in the first place. “After careful review, we sent the below retraction notice below to your ISP,” DtecNet said. “We apologize for any inconvenience.” The problem is that without an explanation of why CoM was targeted, I don’t know what the best response is. It looks like DtecNet made a mistake with us, but the DMCA is a draconian law and easily abused. How many other sites and ISPs have complied to bogus notices like this?

On Tuesday morning, Microsoft sent a DMCA takedown notice to our Web host concerning a post we published back in January about loading the Windows 7 beta on a MacBook.

The DMCA notice demanded we remove the post because it allegedly makes Windows 7 available for “copying through downloading.” (The full text of the notice is after the jump).

Trouble is, we have no idea what Microsoft is talking about. We presumed the post may contain a link to a pirated copy of Windows 7. But the only download link is to Microsoft’s official Windows 7 beta. Surely Microsoft isn’t trying to remove all links to its beta a few days before the final product goes on sale on October 22?

Below is a copy of the notice sent to our host, San Francisco’s Laughing Squid, via its upstream provider, Rackspace. Both companies over the years have become adept at handling threats under the DMCA (the Digital Millenium Copyright Act), which is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of law. But one of these notices puts everyone over a barrel: If we don’t comply, Laughing Squid is obliged to take us offline lest it gets taken offline itself by Rackspace.

But the notice doesn’t specify what the infringment is, nor what has to be taken down. Rackspace has contacted the company acting for Microsoft, DtecNet, for clarification. We’ve left the post alone until we clearly understand the demands.

DtecNet is an anti-piracy company based out of Copenhagen, Denmark. The company is most famous (or infamous) for working with the RIAA, which is now targeting ISPs rather than individual music downloaders. The company has developed proprietary software for detecting piracy on file-sharing nets, blogs and usent, and is a full-service shop. As well as gathering evidence for court cases, it sends out Cease & Desist letters and DMCA notices to ISPs. “Monitor, detect and enforce,” the company says in a sales brochure.

It looks like some kind of automated process went awry.

We contacted Fred von Lohman, a lawyer for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who says it’s unlikely that Microsoft objects to the beta download link. “Can’t be,” he said in email. “That’s an official MSFT site, so not a link to infringing material.”

But the post contains only three other links — one to an online tutorial on a blog called Our Coffee Stops; another to a patch for Apple’s BootCamp; and the third to a software update from Apple. Then the there’s the beta download link, which is the only one that makes mention of Windows 7.

Here’s the DMCA takedown letter:

Demand for Immediate Take-Down: Notice of Infringing Activity

URL: http://cultofmac.com

DATE: 19 spalio 2009

Dear Sir or Madam,

Microsoft has received information that the domain listed above, which

appears to be on servers under your control, is offering unlicensed

copies of, or is engaged in other unauthorized activities relating to

copyrighted works published by Microsoft.

1. Identification of copyrighted works:

Copyrighted work(s): Windows 7

Copyright owner: Microsoft

2. Copyright infringing material or activity found at the following

location(s):

http://www.cultofmac.com/howto-windows-7-on-unibody-macbook-takes-all-afternoon/7184

The above computer program(s) is being made available for copying,

through downloading, at the above location without authorization of the

copyright owner.

3. Statement of authority:

The information in this notice is accurate, and I hereby certify under

penalty of perjury that I am authorized to act on behalf of Microsoft,

the owner of the copyright(s) in the work(s) identified above. I have a

good faith belief that none of the materials or activities listed above

have been authorized by Microsoft, its agents, or the law.

We hereby give notice of these activities to you and request that you

take expeditious action to remove or disable access to the material

described above, and thereby prevent the illegal reproduction and

distribution of this software via your company’s network.

We appreciate your cooperation in this matter. Please advise us

regarding what actions you take.

Yours sincerely,

Sigitas Vy’nauskas

Internet Investigator

On behalf of Microsoft Corporation

One Microsoft Way

Redmond, WA 98052

United States of America

E-mail: (sorry, you need Javascript to see this e-mail address)

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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