As revealed in a report earlier this week, DMCA takedown notices issued to Google have surged 711,887 percent in just four years.
In fact, this month saw a new record week for notices received by the search engine. In a seven day period starting March 10, Google processed an amazing 6,532,393 notices, sent mainly by the music and adult industries.
While the majority of these notices are precise, there are some serious inaccuracies. Google does a pretty good job of rejecting many that are sent in error but it’s inevitable that some slip through the net, and when they do sites can suffer.
One of the latest sites to get on the wrong end of an overbroad notice is UpToBox, a file-hosting service with millions of visitors each month. Particularly popular with the French, the site is France’s 191st most-visited site.
On March 25, anti-piracy company Piracy Stops Here LLC sent a notice on behalf of adult movie company Jim Weathers Productions, asking for more than a thousand URLs to be removed from Google’s search results. All of them were specific URLs, except one – UptoBox’s homepage at UptoBox.com.
Despite zero infringing content appearing on the file-hosting site’s homepage, Google subsequently de-listed the site. On Friday, French news site Numerama contacted Google to find out whether there had been a mistake or whether removing the homepage was intentional, but received no response.
Speaking with TorrentFreak, UpToBox operator ‘Guillaume’ says despite contacting Google several times in the past few days, no one from the company has responded to their requests for an explanation.
“We have sent a notice to Google to cancel this decision some days ago, without any reply from them,” Guillaume explains. “We will continue to send a notice everyday to get us put back in the search engine.”
Guillaume says the cost to his site is already high. Thousands of people have failed to find the site as they might do ordinarily and as a result UptoBox has lost “a huge quantity” of new members.
So, could there be unusual circumstances which would explain the complete de-listing of the site? To find out, we asked Guillaume how the site responds to copyright complaints.
“We analyze them one by one, to see if notices are legal, and if files are really copyright infringing. We have received some DMCA notices about legal files in the past, so now we analyze everything,” he explains. “We delete an infringing file quickly when we received the notification, usually in 24 to 48 hours.”
So for now the UptoBox homepage remains delisted by Google with no idea of when, if ever, it will be restored. The big question now is whether Piracy Stops Here knew what they were doing when they sent the notice or if it was a genuine mistake. That said, with no punishments available for those who send bad notices, nothing can be done against them anyway, a problem raised by WordPress owners Automattic earlier this month.
Update: Good new for UptoBox, as the homepage has now been reinstated.