There’s no shortage of competitors in the anti-piracy field. Most of the manual labor involved in issuing DMCA takedowns has been handed over to proprietary software — turning this into a high-margin, low-effort business for content protection companies. Some are only occasionally competent. Some are frequently horrific. And some are like Guard Content.
Though claiming to be located mere blocks away from the Simpsons family in “Springfield, USA,” almost every word on its site appears to be only a fair approximation of English, suggesting either outsourcing or a location far removed from the proverbial heart of the nation.
Guard Content’s “Contact” page clarifies that the Springfield it calls home is actually in Illinois, but it does so in reverse while leading off with wording that suggests this may actually be the address of the company that created the website. And it wraps this up with “You are welcome!” which is no “Thank you! Come again!” but will have to do.
This address doesn’t actually exist. East Princeton Ave. in Springfield, IL, only covers addresses from 600-1100, due to it being located between 6th and 11th Street. There is no “13 E Springfield Ave.”
The area code (646) traces back to Manhattan, NY, further separating this contact information from reality. But it all comes together when you view the site registration info, which puts the site owner at “Iaran 5, Alabama, AL 36006” and lists a Ukrainian email address.
The Ukrainian email address makes more sense when any attempt to purchase Guard Content’s services leads you to this:
But this is the Age of the Internet. Physical locations don’t matter. The real question is: DOES IT WORK?
Let’s take a look at the sales pitch.
Our organization different from other organizations that agents of our company work with clients on strategies to protect against piracy individually.
Excellent. Plenty of personal contact and a tailored application of Guard Content’s “strategies,” if I’m reading that more correctly than it’s written.
Let’s see some specifics:
We use a special anti-virus program that scans the Internet every day in search of stolen online products and goods.
Now, you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I have content I’d like to protect, but since my offerings aren’t viruses, will this service work for me?”
I DON’T KNOW.
I can only assume the internet continues to get safer every day, thanks to Guard Content’s constant anti-virus scanning. It hits all the best places, too, like warez sites, “auction sites,” cyberlockers and the always-popular “orrent sites.”
Let’s dig a little deeper. How does this powerful anti-virus software find infringing material?
Our software will scan the Internet open spaces in search of copyright infringement, and our agents will receive and process the information.
Ah, so it’s not just the sites. It’s the space between the sites. Got it.
Then we will send DMCA takedown obtained to get the content that really violated copyrights.
Presumably, content only slightly violated will be left untouched.
All information is carefully checked by our experts and the customer is always informed and is aware of all the events and happenings.
Well, I have my doubts about, well, several of these claims actually, but this last one in particular. We’ll see why in a moment. But it should work well, considering the service starts at $80/mo. and tops out at $400/mo. It seems expensive, but not so much when you consider a “team of experts” is willing to serve you a physically-impossible “27 hours a day, 7 days a week.” And, if nothing else, let’s remember why we’re all here: Napster or something.
A lot of people remember situation, when MP3 files was stolen illegal from computer of sound record company and owners lost not just files, they lost millions. This example of internet piracy, and it is not the most horrible one.
Guard Content’s “team of experts” seems to have all of three clients at the moment, but we’re going to focus on Rob Percival, who doesn’t seem to be getting his money’s worth, despite receiving a majority of Guard Content’s attention.
Rob Percival successfully Kickstarted a set of “complete iOS developer courses,” which he now sells through Udemy and other outlets. I know this because Guard Content tried to have his Kickstarter page delisted by Google. The DMCA notice also targeted several legitimate outlets connecting potential buyers with Percival’s offerings. It also attempted to delist pages at Reddit, Apple.com, makeuseof.com and Quora, where Percival’s courses are discussed and recommended.
Not content with “saving” Percival from additional sales, Guard Content also targeted a random developer’s LinkedIn page. And, for no apparent reason (other than completely misunderstanding what Chilling Effects does), Guard Content asked for the removal of 13 of its previous takedown requests from the DMCA archival service.
This isn’t an anomaly. Guard Content does consistently low-quality work for Percival, either by duplicating previous requests or by targeting pages based on little more than the presence of words like “iOS,” “Udemy” or “online course.”
In another request, it tried to take down Kickstarter pages for two iOS developers, as well as two pages of courses at Udemy.com offered by other developers. Other stupidity/ineptitude contained within this DMCA takedown request include demands to remove stories from Businessweek and MacWorld, as well as the demand for the takedown of the entire PeerTorrent.com domain.
Fortunately for everyone involved, Google is less stupid than Guard Content’s requests. The legitimate links remain live and accessible via the world’s largest search engine. But this is a “service” Guard Content charges actual money for — and, in Percival’s case — it would be doing more harm than good if it weren’t for the recipient of the requests being vastly more competent than the sender.
I’ve let Rob Percival know about Guard Content’s blundering efforts on his behalf. I assume he’ll probably find his anti-piracy dollars are better spent elsewhere. An easy, accessible system for combating infringement is a generally a good thing. The problem is twofold: this means anyone can file a request, no matter their personal level of competence. Secondly, low quality “services” are not only taking advantage of this option, but they’re taking advantage of their customers.