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Starz Apologizes for Taking Down Tweets to Torrentfreak Article Following Security Breach

Updated. Facing a backlash over overzealous copyright enforcement, Starz issued an apology on Monday for inadvertently taking down tweets to articles about TV show piracy. The TV network said in a statement that it recently incurred a security breach, which prompted the company to hire a third party for copyright enforcement.

“The techniques and technologies employed in these efforts are not always perfect, and as such it appears that in this case, some posts were inadvertently caught up in the sweep that may fall outside the DMCA guidelines,” the network said in a statement.

“That was never our intention and we apologize to those who were incorrectly targeted. We are in the process of reviewing all of the impacted posts as well as the scope and procedure for the previous takedowns and are working with our vendors to reinstate any such content that was inappropriately targeted for removal.”

The apology came in response to a series of takedowns that started last week. Torrentfreak, a long-established website reporting on P2P and piracy, ran a story about a new flood of TV show leaks. The story mentioned that unreleased episodes from a number of shows, including Starz titles like “American Gods,” had appeared on piracy sites.

Torrentfreak didn’t link to any leaked episodes, or even mention the sites that were hosting those leaks. The site did identify a New York-based magazine editor as a possible source of the leaks, and also included a handful of screenshots in its reporting.

After Torrentfreak first published the story, Starz used a social media agency to have Twitter take down tweets to the story. Torrentfreak protested, and wrote a follow-up article about the takedowns — and promptly had tweets to that story taken down as well.

Some of the tweets in question, including Torrentfreak’s original tweet linking to its initial story, were reinstated Monday afternoon.

The tweet takedowns have been widely criticized, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation and others coming to Torrentfreak’s support. “The article reported that there are people on the internet infringing copyright, but that’s a far cry from being an infringement itself,” the digital rights group said in a tweet that also linked to Torrentfreak’s original story — which resulted in another DMCA takedown request.

A number of journalists also saw their tweets about the affair disappear, including Columbia Journalism Review chief digital writer Mathew Ingram, who called the takedowns “Kafka-esque.”

This is Kafka-esque: I posted yesterday about Twitter removing a tweet from TorrrentFreak because it contained a link to an article about pirated copies of Starz shows appearing online (with no links to said content). Twitter has now removed my tweet linking to that story pic.twitter.com/pKF4VCRSit

— Mathew Ingram (@mathewi) April 14, 2019

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s safe harbor provisions force a platform like Twitter to take down allegedly infringing content after receiving a proper takedown notice from or on behalf of a copyright owner, but also allow users to appeal such takedowns. Ingram said he had appealed the takedown, but not received a response from Twitter yet.

Some argued on Monday that the episode showed that platforms make it too hard for users to object takedowns. Twitter didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: 1:10pm: This post was updated with information about tweets being restored.

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