Google details copyright removals in search

Google has released a treasure trove of data about takedown requests regarding possible copyright violations. What may surprise some – but is actually kind of logical if you think about it – is that most requests, by far, come from Microsoft. You’ll be surprised about the total amount of requests, and looking at some of them in more detail, it becomes obvious just how much certain organisations would abuse takedown power if they had it.

Let’s establish, first, what the boundaries are here. We’re talking takedown requests for Google search results. If a rightsholder encounters a link to infringing material, they can send a takedown request to Google. Google will then examine this request, and comply if necessary.

The number of requests has been rising rapidly, and currently Google gets more than 250000 requests per week. Let that sink in: 250000 takedown requests per week, which all have to be assessed and acted upon. More than 1000 copyright owners have sent 1.2 million takedown requests in the past month alone, targeting 24000 different websites, with Microsoft accounting for almost 550000 requests. I’m assuming Microsoft is targeting illegal software here.

I think this is a very valid system, and, contrary to what some might think considering my posting history, I’m happy there’s a working system where rightsholders can get infringing links removed. As much as I believe piracy is nothing but a logical consequence of the industry’s own incompetence, that same industry should still have a way to combat it. The notice and takedown system strikes a perfect balance there.

Google also provided some insight into how rightsholders try to abuse the system. “We recently rejected two requests from an organization representing a major entertainment company, asking us to remove a search result that linked to a major newspaper’s review of a TV show. The requests mistakenly claimed copyright violations of the show, even though there was no infringing content,” Google details, “We’ve also seen baseless copyright removal requests being used for anticompetitive purposes, or to remove content unfavorable to a particular person or company from our search results.”

These are exactly the kind of things that would go wrong once takedown power is handed over to the rightsholders themselves, and illustrates why such a system is so incredibly dangerous. They would use it to remove negative reviews, damning stories, and so on. By allowing a proper notice and takedown system to exist, a decent amount of fairness is introduced that we would otherwise miss.

I’m glad Google is opening up data like this – a treasure trove of information we can use as the debate about copyright rages on.


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