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Legal report measures growth of takedown issuing in last five years

By | Published on Wednesday 26 March 2014


It’s no secret that takedown issuing has become a routine part of the rights management game for the entertainment industry in recent years – as this CMU trends report outlines – but to illustrate that point in one nice stat a new paper from the Virginia Journal Of Law And Technology notes that the number of takedown notices submitted to Google alone increased 711,887% between 2008 and 2012. And will have increased even more since then.

And a few big organisations are behind much of that increase, including record industry trade groups like the Recording Industry Association Of America and the UK’s BPI. As previously reported, the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry announced in January that it and its affiliates worldwide had now submitted over 100 million takedown notices to Google. And that number would likely be higher if the web giant didn’t limit how many notices can be submitted by any one group in any one week.

Takedown notices are issued inline with America’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, even when alleged infringement occurs outside the US jurisdiction. The DMCA says that web companies which inadvertently infringe or aid copyright infringement (via user-upload or automated services) can circumvent any liability for that activity providing they operate a system via which copyright owners can request content or links be removed.

Use of the DMCA takedown process against Google has reached industrial levels as content owners attempt to have links to unlicensed content removed from the search engine’s result lists, so that when people search for artists or tracks legit sources of content dominate on the first few pages of results.

According to Torrentfreak, this new paper on the takedown phenomenon cites new research by Stanford Law School’s Daniel Seng which documents the rapid rise in takedown notice issuing against sites like Google in the last five years. Seng also says that the number of URLs and pieces of content per takedown notice has also significantly increased in that time.

Seng’s report confirms that a small number of organisations are behind the large increases – Microsoft is another prolific takedown issuer – and also notes that the rapid rise began around about the time most recent efforts to introduce new anti-piracy laws in the US – the so called SOPA and PIPA proposals – fell apart amidst protests from the tech community. Though here in the UK, where the web-blocking initiative SOPA and PIPA were attempting to enable has gone ahead, rights owners are still submitting high quantities of takedown notices.

For their part, the rights owners would argue that companies like Google are partly to blame for the high numbers of takedown notices being issued, because they won’t de-list entire sites that are basically piracy hubs, even if that has been proven in court. It’s Google’s narrow implementation of each individual takedown order – say the content firms – that results in the constant flood of new notices.