Earlier this week, Google announced in a blog post that the company receives more than 2.5 million requests per week to remove copyright infringing links from their search results – a ten-fold increase since the launch of its “Transparency Report” back in May.
It’s no surprise to Creative America supporters or anyone who makes a living in film, television or music that simply by conducting a Google search, stolen content is just clicks away. The public airing of the data seemed like a positive step forward in drawing attention to the problem.
Now that the data is in, the sheer numbers are staggering.
“Between December 2011 and November 2012,” Google’s Legal Director Fred Von Lohmann wrote, “we removed 97.5% of all URLs specified in copyright removal requests.”
That means well over 2.4 million of the removal requests are deemed legitimate by Google and then removed. Every week.
Von Lohmann says URLs are removed within approximately six hours on average which, given the volume, certainly sounds impressive. Processing such a large volume of information must be expensive and cumbersome – even for a company that searches the entire Internet in fractions of a second.
But Google’s stated reason for sharing the data is puzzling. Von Lohmann says: “As policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online.”
Put another way, because only 2.5 percent of the millions of weekly removal requests are found to be illegitimate, he’s saying:
1) existing copyright laws are effective at curbing online infringement, and
2) the risk of collateral damage for enforcing copyright law is too great.
Separately, a Google spokesperson told The Hill they believe “some of the increase is from Google streamlining the process to submit requests, and also due in part to copyright owners using more sophisticated tools to identify piracy and send notices to Google.”
While this may be a contributing factor, they are missing the point. In reality, the high volume of removal requests is a reflection of the magnitude of the piracy problem and of Google’s role in directing Internet users, wittingly or unwittingly, to links that host stolen content.
The real burden is on content creators who rely on the legitimate sale of their creative works to make a living – and who don’t get paid when their work is stolen.
Google clearly recognizes how onerous the processing of removal requests is for them, but what about the content creators and owners who now spend significant resources and countless hours monitoring Google search results for illegal links to their stolen creative works – only to have another one pop up again? What about independent or up-and-coming filmmakers who don’t have the means to make sure stolen copies of their work are promptly removed?
They’re not saying it yet, but one unexpected benefit of the “Transparency Report” might be that Google is now finally beginning to understand the frustration content creators feel.