In common with many other websites on the Internet Google has an obligation to remove infringing content upon receiving a valid DMCA request from copyright holders.
To give the public insight into the scope and nature of this process, Google started to publish all takedown requests online in their Transparency Report.
Since then, the number of URLs Google is being asked to remove has grown rapidly. Last week Google received takedown requests for a record-breaking 3,502,345 URLs, which is 15 times more than the amount received in January.
Google doesn’t report yearly figures, but we added up all the weekly reports and found that in 2012 Google was asked to remove 51,395,353 links to infringing webpages. Nearly all of these webpages are no longer showing up in Google’s search results.
The data further reveals the RIAA is the most active sender. The music group asked Google to remove links to 7,816,766 allegedly infringing webpages this year.
DMCA URL takedown requests per week
Looking at the websites that Google received the most takedown notices for, we see that the file-hosting search engine FilesTube tops the rankings with 2,273,280 links. While this is certainly a significant number, it’s less than one percent of all FilesTube pages indexed by Google.
Google was further asked to remove 554,613 links to The Pirate Bay, which puts the most notorious BitTorrent site in 16th place.
While copyright holders are entitled to protect their content, the avalanche of takedown requests also has a downside. Not all of the requests are correct and this quite regularly leads to the takedown of legitimate content.
Google itself also raised concerns about this worrying trend.
“As policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online,” Google’s Legal Director Fred Von Lohmann said earlier this month.
For their part, the MPAA uses the data to point out how much pirated content they have to deal with online. The Hollywood group sees Google as one of the main facilitators of copyright infringement.
“There is a staggering amount of copyright infringement taking place every day online and much of it is facilitated by Google, as their own data shows,” the MPAA noted a few weeks ago.
“We couldn’t agree more with Google that this data shows that our current system is not working – for creators, or for Google. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that it also confirms the important role that Google has to play in helping curb the theft of creative works while protecting an Internet that works for everyone,” the Hollywood group added.
MPAA’s comments are shared by other copyright holders, who all want Google to step up its anti-piracy efforts.
Last year a behind-closed-doors meeting revealed that the copyright industry is pushing Google to completely de-list popular file-sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, and give higher ranking to authorized sites.
Thus far Google has not de-listed any websites, but in August the search engine did start downgrading “pirate” sites for which they receive a relatively many DMCA takedown notices. Whether this has a significant effect on the availability of pirated content is unknown.
It will be interesting to see how much the number of DMCA notices increases in the coming year, and if Google announces more anti-piracy changes.