Link-Busters Flagged Over 56 Million ‘Pirate’ URLs to Google in a Week

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It's no secret that online piracy presents a major challenge to copyright holders. With owners of pirate sites largely unresponsive, search engines and other online intermediaries are often asked to intervene. With a starring role for anti-piracy company Link-Busters, Google has seen a significant surge in takedown requests, one that has set new records on the way.

dmca-google-s1Little over a decade ago, Google expanded its transparency report with a new section dedicated to DMCA takedown requests.

For the first time, this allowed outsiders to see which URLs were being targeted by copyright holders and in what quantity.

In the years that followed, we meticulously covered a steady increase in takedown notices. From just a few thousand reported links per week, soon it was hundreds of thousands, eventually crossing the 7 million mark around 2015.

The graph below shows the takedown boom during these years. At the time, we covered these record-breaking numbers, which peaked at roughly 20 million links reported weekly.

All Google Takedowns (2012-2016)


The exponential growth curve eventually flattened out and around 2017 the takedown volume began to decline. The decrease was in part due to various anti-piracy algorithms making pirated content less visible in search results.

Takedown Resurgence

While Google’s demotion measures are still in place, pirates haven’t disappeared. On the contrary, they actively try to bypass the search engine’s countermeasures. As a result, after a few years of declining volumes, DMCA notices shot up once again.

The resurgence produced record-breaking numbers. As reported earlier this year, it only took little over six months for Google to add a billion takedowns. That’s 36 million pirate URLs flagged per week, on average, but more was yet to come.

While browsing though Google’s transparency report this week, we noticed one reporting outfit quickly climbing the ranks. Dutch piracy reporter Link-Busters works with major book publishers and is now the top sender of Google takedown notices this year. The company is flagging URLs at a rate we’ve never seen before.

To set the stage; last year, MG Premium broke new records by being the first reporters to submit over 14 million links per week. That’s peanuts compared to Link-Busters’ latest efforts.

Last year, Link-Busters reported hundreds of thousands of links per week, increasing to around 14 million during the first months of the year. More recently, however, reporting rates have skyrocketed.

56 Million Per Week

In April, the anti-piracy group flagged a record-breaking 56 million links in a single week. That’s an average of more than 5,000 URLs per second. If it could maintain this rate, this single company would report 2.5 billion URLs in a year.

Link-Busters Weekly Takedowns (to Google)

link busters weekly takedowns

The chart above shows Link-Busters’ weekly takedown volume, which already seems to have dropped a bit. Still, the company may be on track to be the first to report a billion pirate URLs to Google.

And there’s another interesting statistic. Since February, Google processed around 750 million reported links, nearly half of which were reported by Link-Busters.

For the Books

As mentioned earlier, Link-Busters mainly works with major book publishers. Most of its takedowns are sent on behalf of Penguin Random House, HarperCollins Publishers, Hachette, John Wiley & Sons, and Princeton University Press.

This ‘book’ crackdown is also relatively new. Previously, music, movie, and adult rightsholders occupied the top takedown spots.

Not surprisingly, Link-Busters mainly targets the domain names of popular shadow libraries. Their top 10 includes several domains connected to Anna’s Archive and Z-Library, as show below.

Link-Busters Most Targeted Domains


Whether Link-Busters can keep up this takedown rate has yet to be seen. We’ve asked the company to comment on the recent volume surge and how it expects things to evolve going forward, but we haven’t heard back.


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