Exactly ten years ago, Google expanded its transparency report with a new section dedicated to DMCA takedown requests.
For the first time, outsiders could see which URLs copyright holders were targeting and in what quantity.
The decision to make this information public was partly triggered by a rapid increase in requests for removal. This had an impact on the “free flow of information”, according to the search engine.
“We believe openness is critical to the future of the internet. When something impedes the free flow of information, we believe there should be transparency about what that blockage might be.
According to Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright adviser at the time, DMCA notices were skyrocketing.
“These days, it’s not uncommon for us to receive over 250,000 requests each week, which is more than copyright owners asked us to remove in 2009,” Van Lohman said. wrote at the time.
From 250,000 to 1,000,000,000 dismantlings per year
Looking back, that was just the start of a teardown explosion. A few years later, Google was processing over 20 million DMCA notices a week, which translates to over a billion a year.
This growth curve eventually flattened, and in recent years the volume of withdrawals began to decline. This is partly due to the various anti-piracy algorithms that push pirated content down in search results.
By downgrading the results of pirate sites, infringing content has become harder to find in the search engine. As a result, Google now processes “only” a few hundred million DMCA requests per year.
After ten years of withdrawal transparency, we take a look at the totals so far, which are quite impressive. Over the past decade, rightsholders have asked Google to remove 5.75 billion URLs allegedly linked to copyright-infringing content.
These takedown requests come from just over 300,000 different copyright owners. British music group BPI is the most prolific sender. With 570 million reported links, that’s good for nearly 10% of all takedown requests.
Looking at the targeted domains, we see that 4shared.com is in the lead with 68 million URLs reported. Most of them were reported several years ago. In recent years, the site has been reported “only” a few thousand times a week, with less than a million reported links per year.
The top five of the most targeted domain names are completed by the defunct site mp3toys.xyz, the hosting platforms rapidgator.net, chomikuj.pl and uploaded.net, as well as the unblocking proxy portal unblocksites.co.
Not all flagged URLs are removed
The numbers refer to the number of URLs reported, but not all of them are actually removed from the search engine. The statistics also count duplicate reports, false claims, and URLs that are not indexed by Google.
For example, if we look at the reports of “MG Premium” from MindGeek, we find that the company has reported over 494 million URLs over the years. Just over half of them were removed by Google.
Of the remaining URLs, 128 million were not in Google’s index. These have been placed on a preventive blocklist, to prevent them from appearing later in search results. An additional 70 million links were classified as duplicates, while almost 7 million were rejected for other reasons.
Errors and abuse
While these numbers are interesting on their own, the greatest contribution of the Transparency Report is the ability of outsiders to spot misleading and abusive reviews. This is possible because Google shares all reported links with the Lumen Database, which is managed by the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard.
Over the years, this database has helped us spot thousands of problematic withdrawals, ranging from honest mistakes, through automated withdrawal errors, to simple abuse.
There are many examples of errors that we can mention. Microsoft once targeted the BBC, Wikipedia and the US government; Movie studios asked Google to remove their own movies; A database of French movies and TV shows targeted Netflix and Rotten Tomatoes, etc.
With billions of URLs reported, it’s no surprise that these errors occur, but by reporting them publicly, those responsible can be held accountable. This must have resulted in a higher takedown accuracy rate over time.
It will be interesting to see how withdrawal trends develop over the next few years. As long as Google continues its transparency report, we’ll surely keep an eye on it.