Microsoft’s Bing Removed 125 Million ‘Pirate’ URLs Last Year

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In response to DMCA takedown requests, more than 125 million links were removed from the search engine last year. While this is a significant number, the removal requests were actually slashed in half over the past two years.

bing logoMicrosoft is one of the world’s most prominent copyright holders. Every year, the company sends millions of takedown notices to sites that offer or link to pirated copies of its works.

At the same time, however, the company also processes takedown requests from other rightsholders. More than 99% of these target URLs that Microsoft makes accessible through the Bing search engine.

DMCA Notices Increased Over The Years

Over the past several years, the number of takedown notices has gradually increased. Initially, Microsoft didn’t publish these figures but when we asked about it in 2013, the company told us that it received hundreds of thousands of DMCA notices for URLs in Bing’s search results.

Two years later this volume had already gone up significantly, averaging more than four million reported URLs per month. In 2017, this had increased five-fold, reaching a staggering quarter-billion reported URLs over the entire year.

This upward trend was not unique to Microsoft’s search engine. A similar increase was visible at Google as well. In recent years, however, this pattern began to reverse, also at Bing.

125 Million Removed URLs

A few days ago Microsoft released its latest transparency report. The company writes that, over the last six months of 2020, it removed nearly 59 million URLs from Bing’s search results. Only 0.43% of the reported links were not removed.

bing 2020 transparency 1

In the first half of the year, Microsoft purged a slightly higher number of URLs, roughly 67 million.

This means that for the entire year, Microsoft removed 125 million links from Bing’s search results, which is down 50% compared to the high in 2017.

bing transparency 2020 2

There may be a variety of reasons for the decline, but one likely explanation is that Bing is actively downranking pirate sites in search results. And indeed, there is some evidence for that.

Anti-Piracy Agreement

What we know for sure is that Bing and Google are actively working with copyright holders to address the piracy problem. In 2017 they signed a voluntary agreement that aims to remove infringing sites from the top search results. After that, the DMCA takedown volume started to drop.

While the number of takedowns decreased, there are still plenty of requests are being filed. Interestingly, however, the domain for which Bing received the most takedown requests is the relatively unknown, a domain that was previously used for a podcast.

In 2020, copyright holders identified 2.8 million infringing links to the site, which briefly operated a non-podcast-related MP3 download service. At the time of writing, the site is no longer available.

Finally, Microsoft’s transparency report shows that UK music group BPI is the most prolific sender. The organization reported nearly 33 million URLs to Bing last year, which is a quarter of all reports the search engine received.

It will be interesting to see how these numbers develop over time. The current trend is down, that’s for sure.


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