Google Takedown Data Shows Secret Piracy Battle

Max ‘Beast from the East’ Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope.

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Transparency Report now features figures on copyright infringement claims

From yesterday, Google has started to offer statistics on copyright infringement and search result takedown requests as part of its Transparency Report.

The new Copyright page shows details such as who has requested search results to be pulled, how many such requests they have made, the information on top targeted domains and other statistics.

Telling it like it is

Google launched the Transparency Report two years ago. The project started off by sharing data about the government requests to remove content from Google Search results, or requests for information about individual users.

The search giant has now decided to make public the number of requests it gets from copyright owners (and the organizations that represent them) to remove Google Search results because they allegedly link to infringing content.

The number of URLs requested to be removed from Google search has been growing steadily, with the company now receiving around 300,000 per week. This is more than what copyright owners asked the company to remove in all of 2009.

Google takes the copyright notice takedowns very seriously, and its actions comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, not all requests are acted upon. The company has removed approximately 97 percent of search results specified in requests that it received between July and December 2011.

Google admits that from time to time, it receives inaccurate or unjustified copyright removal requests for search results that clearly do not link to infringing content. For example, recently a driving school in the UK requested the removal of a competitor’s homepage from Search, on the grounds that the competitor had copied an alphabetized list of cities and regions where instruction was offered. The search engine obviously didn’t comply with this request.

In the past month, British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), NBC Universal, Microsoft and Elegant Angel (representing the porn industry) were the top copyright owners by number of reported cases of infringement. Websites, and were the top targeted domains in the past month.

The initial report discloses data from as far back as July 2011 and moving forward, Google plans to update the stats daily.

Internet piracy and protection of intellectual property are hot topics. A study recently published by the trade group Business Software Alliance has claimed that 57 percent of PC users have admitted to using pirated software. Meanwhile, the controversial Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement that was designed to deal with the problem looks set to fail the European Parliament vote, and alternative legislation is already being discussed in Brussels.

“As policymakers and Internet users around the world consider the pros and cons of different proposals to address the problem of online copyright infringement, we hope this data will contribute to the discussion,” commented Fred von Lohmann, senior copyright counsel at Google.

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