As it comes under massive pressure from rightsholders, Google’s day to day copyright-related decisions – and indeed those of rightsholders – are coming under increasing scrutiny, largely thanks to the existence of Google’s Transparency Report and the DMCA takedown archive at Chilling Effects.
Through these reports we can look at copyright claims and the actions taken by Google, which overwhelmingly follow the US DMCA to the letter. Today, however, we look at an instance where the search engine appears to be going quite a bit further.
Movie2K is a site dedicated to indexing streaming movies and TV shows. Its indexes are huge and with as little as two clicks mountains of premium content – including movies still in theaters – will play in an embedded window.
To give an idea of how big the site is, Alexa ranks Movie2K as the 240th most popular site in the world but on a local level things are even more impressive. In Germany, for example, the site is ranked 19th, making it more popular than Twitter, Amazon, Apple, PayPal and Microsoft.
However, Movie2K is struggling to correct what it sees as an injustice. In March 2012, Paramount Pictures sent a copyright complaint to Google asking it to remove from its search listings two links to the movie Transformers: Dark of the Moons. However, while one was a specific URL, the other was Movie2K’s homepage.
As a result, for nearly a year Movie2K’s homepage has been absent from Google search results, despite requests to have it reinstated.
“We have received and reviewed your message. At this time, Google has decided not to take action based on our policies concerning content removal and reinstatement,” the search engine told Movie2K in April 2012.
During the months that followed Movie2K kept up their efforts but despite the Transformers movie not being listed on the site’s homepage or present at the URL listed in the DMCA complaint, Google still refuse to reinstate the site’s homepage to its listings.
“Thanks for reaching out to us. We have received and reviewed your DMCA counter notice. At this time, Google has decided not to take action based on our policies concerning content removal and reinstatement. We encourage you to review [link] for more information about the DMCA,” the company wrote in a recent email.
Google add that should Movie2K remove the allegedly infringing content from their entire site (the Transformers movie in question is currently available on another URL) and promise not to put it back, then Movie2K can let them know.
What appears to be happening in this particular instance is that when asked to remove a specific link Google responded as they are required to under the law. However, faced with a URL removal by Movie2K but a subsequent relisting of the content on another URL, Google considers the content as still up, a major problem if the URL is the site’s main page.
Movie2K admin Terry believes that Google is hinting at an even more aggressive solution to becoming re-listed.
“So they want us to remove all links which are somehow copyright infringement, that’s the only way we can have our index back listed on their search engine,” Terry told TorrentFreak. “That might happen to every other site, to thepiratebay, to mega.co.nz.”
But considering the infringement issues many content providers have with the site, is Google justified in issuing tough demands to Movie2K before reinstating its listing?
“If Google wants to filter all websites with infringing links, then they will need to do the same with a lot of sites in the world, especially with our competition like 1channel.ch and kinox.to since they all have copyright infringing material on their homepages,” Terry says.
The Movie2K admin concludes by saying that Google’s efforts against infringement are not only hurting his site but are actually boosting the chances of Internet users being harmed by malicious content.
“Delisting has a terrible effect. If you compare our Alexa stats we are still growing, but a lot of people aren’t able to find our site on Google and are instead diverted to malicious and virus infected websites,” Terry says.
“The bad guys have recognized that our website index is not listed on Google and are trying to make profit from their sites with similar names that appear in the results instead. Google knows that but they don´t care and in this case they are supporting such malicious and virus infected websites.”
While the rightsholders whose content is linked from Movie2K will be wholly unsympathetic to the site’s plight, this situation further highlights how Google is being forever drawn into the copyright debate. The decisions it makes have to strike a balance between the interests of many parties including those of rightsholders, site owners and the general public, not to mention their own.
Google received 14,380,699 takedown requests last month and is apparently struggling to keep up with demand, to the point where it has been forced to limit the number of complaints copyright holders can file. Rightsholders argue that this problem can be solved immediately if Google simply delists offenders’ sites.