Roughly 25 years ago, Google started its business as a simple and straightforward search engine.
The startup swiftly captured a dominant market share which it managed to retain and grow as the years passed by.
Google’s position as a search leader also brings responsibility, an issue copyright holders hammered on for a long time. Slowly but steadily, Google tweaked its policies to hinder pirate sites.
The most direct way for the search engine to address the piracy problem is by responding to DMCA notices. If copyright holders spot pirate sites in search results, they can direct Google to remove these links from its indexes.
Seven Billion Reported URLs
Google first started to keep track of these takedown notices at the beginning of the last decade. In the spring of 2012, Google launched its Transparency Report which publishes all DMCA requests the company receives, including the targeted links and their senders. This provided fuel for hundreds of news reports as well as academic research.
A few days ago, Google reached a new milestone when it processed the seven billionth removal request. It’s a mind-boggling number that comes less than a year after the six billionth takedown was recorded.
Looking more closely at the timeline, we see that a billion URLs were reported to Google search in less than nine months. For comparison, it took twice as long to go from five to six billion, suggesting that the takedown volume picked up again after a previously reported decline.
There’s no denying the recent surge in reported links but much of the increase was generated by a single rightsholder in an effort to remove a particular pirate operation from Google search.
Two Domains, One Pirate
Around the start of the year MG Premium began to increase its takedown efforts. The company is an intellectual property vehicle of the MindGeek conglomerate, known for popular adult sites such as PornHub. One of MG Premium’s main goals is to shut down ‘unlicensed’ sites or at least make when unfindable.
Last year, MG Premium scored a multi-million dollar damages win in a U.S. federal court against pirate ‘tube site’ Daftsex . This order also took down the main .com domain, but that didn’t stop the site. Daftsex simply continued using alternative domains which remain available to this day.
This defiant stance prompted MG Premium to start a DMCA takedown spree on a scale never witnessed before. In the first few months of the year, the company flagged more than a quarter billion Daftsex URLs, mostly dsex.to and daft.sex.
The surge is clearly visible in the graph above and at times the company was averaging more than two million takedown requests per day. More recently the volume has come down a bit, but it’s been a major contributor to Google’s takedown uptick.
7 Billion in Perspective
The seven billion figure itself also deserves some clarification. This number only refers to the URLs that were reported to Google, and includes duplicates, as well as pages that were not in Google’s index. The latter category is placed on a special watchlist to make sure they’re not added again in the future.
Google also rejects millions of takedown requests because they fail to show links to infringing content. This applies to more than one hundred TorrentFreak URLs that were flagged incorrectly, as well as pages from Netflix, IMDb, The White House, NASA, and even the FBI.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that not all takedown notices are sent by the people or companies listed in them. Over the past several years, we have seen numerous imposters sending notices on behalf of legitimate rightsholders. These are often sent by pirate site owners attempting to take out the competition.