A few words about Sperlein’s error-prone infringement detection technology

“You have nothing to fear if you have nothing to hide”
Old North Korean proverb

If it goes as far as evidence discovery, hard drives of those who did not pay ransoms can be examined. “Experts” will use “sophisticated technology” to find traces of IO Group products. But those of us who did not download files in question shouldn’t be worried, right? Those “sophisticated discovery methods” are not prone to false positives. Or… are they?

Below is a part of the story posted on http://missdonnaqueen.blogspot.com/. This blog is not available anymore, probably because of its pornographic nature, therefore I quote a saved copy.

The excerpt from the blog post is rather long, so here is a quick recap:

A cross-dresser nicknamed DonnaQueen published on a tube site a porno movie she made herself. To her astonishment, the movie was taken down for copyright infringement — our troll G. Sperlein reported it, claiming that his very effective fingerprinting technology detected the infringement. To be fair, Mr. Sperlein quickly acknowledged the mistake, although his explanation was rather bizarre. Even if one claims that his technology is nearly 100% mistake-free, always remember about the weakest link of any process – the human factor.

A mistake can cost a victim tons of money, and potentially jail term if he/she is charged with lying to the court. Yes, jail term: only “highly ethical” lawyers can get away with lying in court, not poor Joes and Janes like us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

My Big Copyright Scare

I’ve had a fairly high-profile presence in the world of online amateur porn for quite some time, and I have released a great deal of still and moving imagery over the years. Everything I have released I have supplied free of charge for the non-commercial use and enjoyment of my fans. They are welcome to, and indeed encouraged to freely reproduce and share my work with others, provided I am duly credited as a creator and performer, and provided none of my material is put to unauthorized commercial use. I want and expect everyone to understand that this freedom to enjoy and share does not imply that my I am renouncing my copyright and releasing my creative output into the public domain. Enjoy it to your heart’s content, but please do not forget that it belongs to me

One reason I wish to protect and preserve my copyright is that I have plans to develop a pay site in the near future, and my widely circulated free material is extremely valuable to me for promotional purposes. This work defines “Donna Queen” in the public mind and by it people will know what to expect by joining my pay site. I have no intention of letting my paying customers down. They will get what they have paid for, and more.

I have always assumed that any threat to my copyright would be the result of my lack of vigilance in letting those who publicly share my work know that I expect my reserved rights to my images to be acknowledged in some way. Whenever I learn that someone has posted my work on one site or another without supplying this acknowledgment I make it a point to contact the poster and politely identify myself and ask that they give me proper credit. This has worked very well for me thus far. Most people are very nice about and comply with my requests without ignoring me or putting up a fuss.

I never could have imagined the kind of threat that came to my astonished attention this past week, however. I noticed that my most recent video posting on my xHamster account had disappeared. A few mouse clicks led me to the following message:

What????? A complaint by the copyright owner????? I’m the damn copyright owner!!!!!!!

I immediately contacted xHamster customer support and they responded by giving me a copy of the following email they received concerning my video:


I am the designated agent of Gamma:Zubb the owner, agent, or exclusive licensee for the copyrights of the audio/visual works listed in this notice. I believe the identified audio/visual works were used in a manner not authorized by the owner of the copyrights, its agent, or the law.

On behalf of my client, I demand that upon receipt of this notification you expeditiously remove or disable access to the infringing material and any other property belonging to my client.

I certify under penalty of perjury that I have a good faith belief the information contained in this notification is accurate to the best of my knowledge and that I am authorized to act on behalf of the owner of the aforementioned copyright protected materials.

Although this notice complies with the notice and take down procedures set forth at 17 U.S.C. § 512 (c) or other subsections, it should not be construed as a concession that your company is otherwise eligible for the safe harbor provisions set forth therein.

If you believe a user, member, subscriber, or other individual is responsible for the infringements identified herein, you are advised to retain all evidence as to the infringer’s identity, including without limitation, names, user names, addresses, e-mail address, and IP addresses recorded and time-date stamped at the time the infringer created an account and recorded at the time of the infringing activity.

This notice does not constitute an exhaustive statement of the copyright owner’s legal position, nor is it a waiver of any of its rights and/or remedies in this or any other matter, all of which are hereby expressly reserved.

Gamma:Zubb is a member of the Free Speech Coalition’s Anti-Piracy Action Program (APAP) which is committed to protecting the content of its constituent members. If you would like more information about APAP or about how you can reduce your risk of liability for copyright infringement, please contact me.


D. Gill Sperlein

The Law Office of D. Gill Sperlein
584 Castro Street, Suite 879
San Francisco, California 94114

Gamma:Zubb? Who the hell are they? I was absolutely freaking out at the very idea that a company I knew nothing about had seized my video for itself and had the temerity to send out threatening letters demanding that it be removed from one of my own accounts. I replied to xHamster as follows:

Thank you for your prompt reply. Whoever these people are, THEY are the copyright thieves. This video is MINE, I recorded and edited it myself (I have in my personal possession the original mini-DV tape and captured AVI), and I am the principal performer (the one whose face shows). I would like to know who this “Gamma:Zubb” outfit is and what they are illegally doing with MY work. This is serious business and I am very upset. Someone is unlawfully making money off of MY property and MY image without compensating me.

Of course, there was no point in my venting to xHamster staff, as they were powerless to do anything about the problem. I had to go to the source, so I forwarded my xHamster correspondence to the lawyer who had sent the takedown notice. To my amazement, he responded in just a few hours as follows:


As a content owner, I imagine you understand the enormous damage piracy has placed on studios. I work very closely with the industry and we are trying to find solutions. We currently use fingerprinting technology to find infringing works on various user generated content sites, which people often refer to as tubesites. We do the best we can, but we have not yet reached perfection.
The mistake that was made in your case was caused by human error. I will explain in summary so you can understand what happened. If you have further questions, feel free to ask. I’d be happy to respond.

As I mentioned, we detect infringements using fingerprinting technology. The technology is very effective. The system we use looks for both audio and visual matches. In many cases audio has been stripped out entirely or replaced with a different sound track or a foreign language dub. The system only automatically sends out takedown notices if there is a nearly 100% match on both the audio and visual characteristics. That did not happen in this case.

In this case the system only matched the audio portion of the movie and even that was only a small percentage. Thus, the match was put in a queue for human review. At that particular time, a large amount of fingerprints had just been added and so a larger than normal number of clips were in that queue. When it was reviewed, the person doing the reviewing mistakenly tagged the clip for receiving a takedown notice. I can’t say if it was a careless review or a slip of the mouse. However I do acknowledge that it was a mistake. And again I apologize.

I am cc’ing xhamster on this e-mail to make it clear to them that this was an error on our part.

Note that there was no piracy and neither I nor my client’s made copies of or distributed your work.

Again, I regret any inconvenience and assure you that everyone on this end will do all they can to ensure this does not happen in the future. In any event, I believe maintaining a civil tone and mutual respect will put us all in a better position to avoid mistakes and/or minimize their effect.



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4 responses to ‘A few words about Sperlein’s error-prone infringement detection technology

  1. My understanding is that anyone who files a false DMCA copyright claim is liable for damages and legal fees if you choose to counter-prosecute. By filing a DMCA take-down notice, they’ve stated under penalty of perjury that their claim is true, and under your stated circumstances you can – if you so choose – take advantage of that in a punitive manner.

    Section 512(f) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 states:

    “In order to protect against the possibility of erroneous or fraudulent notifications, certain safeguards are built into section 512. Subsection (g)(1) gives the subscriber the opportunity to respond to the notice and takedown by filing a counter notification. In order to qualify for the protection against liability for taking down material, the service provider must promptly notify the subscriber that it has removed or disabled access to the material.

    If the subscriber serves a counter notification complying with statutory requirements, including a statement under penalty of perjury that the material was removed or disabled through mistake or misidentification, then unless the copyright owner files an action seeking a court order against the subscriber,
    the service provider must put the material back up within 10-14 business days after receiving the counter notification.

    Penalties are provided for knowing material misrepresentations in either a notice or a counter notice. Any person who knowingly materially misrepresents that material is infringing, or that it was removed or blocked through mistake or misidentification, is liable for any resulting damages (including costs and attorneys’ fees) incurred by the alleged infringer, the copyright owner or its licensee, or the service provider.”

  2. It would be interesting to know a little bit on the detection software, particularly what it compares to determine which files belong to their business partners. File name, MD5 or other hash, or something else in a data base??? Imagine what fun could be had by seeding the Internet with false positives. 😉

    • The guy behind the detection company describes his methods in this memorandum. Well, some important information was concealed. I’m talking about the ability to detect a file being infringed and the name of the file a defendant thought he was downloading. Naturally disclosing this information might lead to uncomfortable questions why Sperlein did not list those file names in his complaint. If he did, it would be much easier to quash subpoenas to ISPs.

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