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Google was processing 23 copyright takedowns a second last month

By | Published on Tuesday 8 September 2015


If you’re bored of Justin Bieber’s record breaking first-week streams and Sam Smith’s record breaking 67 weeks in the top ten, here’s a different broken record. Google processed 16.68 million takedown notices in just one week last month, according to Torrentfreak, the highest number ever in seven days. In a single week in August 2011 just 158,000 takedown requests were processed by the web giant. Such growth! If only someone could work out a way to monetise it.

The takedown notices to which we refer are those issued under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act against the Google search engine, requesting that links to copyright infringing material be removed from its database so that they no longer appear when users search for certain key words. Most copyright industries have become adept at issuing takedown notices against web firms that are utilising the so call safe harbours of US or European law, though the music industry is generally the most prolific in this domain.

The number of takedown notices being submitted to the likes of Google has increased dramatically in recent years simply as copyright owners – and the music industry especially – put a bigger focus on this kind of anti-piracy activity, and developed tools and teams to help with the process. And as we discussed at CMU Insights @ The Great Escape 2014, takedown issuing is now a routine part of the music rights day for some labels and publishers.

Though, Torrentfreak notes that the recent surge in the number of takedowns being issued is partly the by-product of some other anti-piracy tactics employed by the content industries. As previously reported, right owners have increasingly been going after the domain names of piracy set-ups, either through the courts or just directly with domain registrars.

As a result most piracy sites now concurrently operate from multiple domains logged at different registries, the hope being that if one is seized another will be unaffected. Because Google insists that a rights owner provide precise URLs that it wish to be removed from its search engine, rather than just the name of a piece of content that may be linked to in a number of ways, rights owners now frequently have to list multiple URLs to stop people accessing just one file, thus increasing the number of takedowns for the web giant to process.

Rights owners have long argued that where a website exists primarily to enable or encourage infringement – and especially where a court of law has ruled as such and issued a web-blocking order to local internet service providers – then Google should delete every single link originating from that service as a matter of course. So all and any URLs that contain words ‘Pirate Bay’ or ‘Kickass Torrents’ or any variation thereof would be removed.

Google has always countered the call for such measures with the customary “we’re not the policemen of the internet” line. The music and movie industries still hope to force Google’s hand on this issue one day, but in the meantime they will let the takedowns continue to flood in, and if the web giant ever complains about having to process almost 23 copyright complaints a second (by Torrentfreak’s maths), they’ll argue that the scale of the operation is the web giant’s own doing.

So see you back here in a year’s time for the next ‘record number of takedowns issued against Google’ story. When Sam Smith’s bloody record will still probably be in the top ten.