A few weeks ago, we reported that the RIAA targeted several YouTube converters and downloaders by sending relatively rare takedown requests to Google.
Instead of the usual DMCA copyright notices, the music group asked the search engine to remove various URLs for alleged violations of the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.
This proved to be quite effective. After taking down the many links to FLVTO, 2Conv, Y2Mate, and Yout, the RIAA expanded its scope to other streamrippers. In total, the music group targeted hundreds of URLs in a few dozen notices.
And the RIAA is not alone. Other copyright holders are using the anti-circumvention route as well. This includes game companies such as Nintendo and Rockstar Games, as well as Netflix.
One upside for rightsholders is that there’s no official counter-notification option. This means that affected sites can’t easily complain when they are mistakenly targeted. However, there’s another major benefit as well.
Some sites that don’t infringe any copyrights directly, can be seen as anti-circumvention tools. This gives rightsholders an extra option to remove URLs. To illustrate this, we only have to look at the RIAA’s recent takedown efforts.
When the music group sent a standard DMCA takedown request to Google for several streamripper URLs in November, the search engine didn’t take these offline. However, a similar DMCA circumvention notice that was sent a few days later was successful.
This may be why there has been quite an increase in these anti-circumvention notices lately. While Google doesn’t list these by default in its transparency report, we used the Lumen database to find out how many notices were sent this year.
At the time of writing, Google has received 6,281 DMCA anti-circumvention notices in 2019. These notices can contain multiple links, sometimes even hundreds. The number of notices has increased significantly compared to last year when 2,960 notices came in.
In 2017 there were even fewer anti-circumvention notices, 921 to be precise.
While today’s numbers are still very modest, there’s definitely a visible upward trend that hasn’t been reported before. This increase is all the more interesting because Google now receives fewer standard copyright takedown notices.
TorrentFreak reached out to the RIAA to hear more about their motivation to use anti-circumvention notices, but the music group declined to comment on the issue.
Considering the effectiveness of their campaign to remove steamrippers from Google’s search results, we expect the efforts to continue. And when more rightsholders discover this option, we expect the number of anti-circumvention notices to grow further still.