Last month, a company working on behalf of the publisher Random House, asked Google to remove links to a free copy of Stephen King’s Carrie from search results. Google complied for three out of the four requested links, but didn’t remove Kim Dotcom’s new website Mega.co.nz as requested—for even if Mega is hosting pirated copies of Carrie, they sure aren’t on the homepage.
But leaving that link up was an exception to the rule. More and more, copyright owners and the organizations they employ are cutting off where the websites and the public meet—the search engine. Google’s transparency reports show that requests to remove links to copyrighted material rose steadily in 2013. The search giant received 6.5 million requests during the week of November 18, 2013, which is over twice as many as the same week a year ago. Google said it complies with 97 percent of requests.
TorrentFreak has been compiling the weekly data, and found that “copyright holders have asked Google to remove more than 200,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine this year.” And if your mind needs extra boggling, TorrentFreak explained, “that means Google is now removing nine allegedly-infringing URLs from its indexes every single second of every single day.”
The organizations that file the most requests are exactly who you would suspect they would be: companies working on behalf of the RIAA and BPI. And they go after exactly whom you would expect too: mp3 sites such as Dilandau.eu, zippyshare.com, and filestube.com. Takedown requests are easily made through a web form, and take an average of six hours for Google to process.
And when copyright interests can't make headway through private firms, governments get involved. In France, the High Court of Paris has concluded a 2011 case by ordering Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and the French company Orange to completely de-list 16 video streaming sites from search results, saying that the sites were “dedicated or virtually dedicated to the distribution of audiovisual works without the consent of their creators.” French ISPs were also instructed to block access to the sites.
TechDirt called the court "clueless" and pointed out that clumsy or overly-broad rulings hold the potential to crush nascent creativity and utility for websites that are, as effectively-as possible, made to disappear.
The French court might not be totally savvy about how the internet works, and whether or not its ruling will actually stop anyone from violating copyrights, but it's following the seasoned leaders and villains of copyright hunting. Of course, given the success rate of the RIAA, this could seem clueless, but it also has a certain logic: it puts the responsibility for blocking access to the content squarely on a company that actually does understand the internet.