Google Sending Piracy Notices to Fiber Customers, TorrentFreak Claims

Google is sending automated notices to some of its Google Fiber customers that include infringement notices and demands for settlement from copyright owners.

Google Fiber 2

Some customers of Google Fiber appear to be getting more than just blazing fast Internet connection speeds for their subscription.

Google apparently has also been forwarding infringement notices to some subscribers from copyright holders who believe their content was misused. The automated notices have included demands for settlements ranging from $20 to $300 from copyright holders, TorrentFreak reported this week.

Google is not alone in receiving such automated takedown notices from copyright holders, nor is it the only ISP to automatically forward them to impacted subscribers.

Still, the company's decision not to strip out the threatening language used by copyright holders to force a settlement is somewhat surprising and sets it apart from some others, including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T, said TorrentFreak, which reports on such notices regularly.

TorrentFreak said it has seen settlement demands from at least two copyright protection firms that were forwarded by Google to Fiber customers. One of the automated emails warned the subscriber of permanent service disconnection for repeat violations.

TorrentFreak posted copies of two notices that Google is alleged to have sent to some Fiber customers. One of them signed by Google's Fiber Team informs the subscriber that a copyright owner had notified Google about the customer's Fiber account being used to illegally download copyrighted material.

The other missive, apparently forwarded by Google on behalf of a music licensing company, warns the recipient of potential injunctions for illegally using copyright material and offers a settlement option. The licensing company instructs the recipient that it "may be expeditious to settle this matter without the need of costly and time-consuming litigation."

The letters are being sent under the aegis of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which gives copyright holders the authority to send takedown notices to Internet users if they have good faith belief that their content was used illegally.

But organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) have noted that the use of robots to identify potential IP infringement and to send automated notices to alleged infringers is concerning.

"Due to the lack of human review, automated takedown notices often result in censorship of perfectly legal content," the EFF said in a blog post earlier this year. "Although Google has the wherewithal to analyze takedown notices and reject those that are unwarranted, it doesn't always do that."

However, other ISPs do even less than Google to make sure any notices they send to subscribers on behalf of copyright holders are justified, the blog stated.

According to Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney at the EFF, ISPs in the U.S. are not legally obliged to forward DMCA requests to consumers. If they do forward such requests, they should strip out the settlement demands, he had noted in a TorrentFreak interview earlier this month.

"An ISP can also choose not to forward notices at all if they are deficient, misleading, or inaccurate," Stoltz had said.

Google did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.