Fake AI law firms are sending fake DMCA threats to generate fake SEO gains

Face composed of many pixellated squares, joining together

Enlarge / A person made of many parts, similar to the attorney who handles both severe criminal law and copyright takedowns for an Arizona law firm. (credit: Getty Images)

If you run a personal or hobby website, getting a copyright notice from a law firm about an image on your site can trigger some fast-acting panic. As someone who has paid to settle a news service-licensing issue before, I can empathize with anybody who wants to make this kind of thing go away.

Which is why a new kind of angle-on-an-angle scheme can seem both obvious to spot and likely effective. Ernie Smith, the prolific, ever-curious writer behind the newsletter Tedium, received a "DMCA Copyright Infringement Notice" in late March from "Commonwealth Legal," representing the "Intellectual Property division" of Tech4Gods.

The issue was with a photo of a keyfob from legitimate photo service Unsplash used in service of a post about a strange Uber ride Smith once took. As Smith detailed in a Mastodon thread, the purported firm needed him to "add a credit to our client immediately" and said it should be "addressed in the next five business days." Removing the image "does not conclude the matter," and should Smith have not taken action, the putative firm would have to "activate" its case, relying on DMCA 512(c) (which, in many readings, actually does grant relief should a website owner, unaware of infringing material, "act expeditiously to remove" said material). The email unhelpfully points to the main page of the Internet Archive so that Smith might review "past usage records."

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