In this post, we’re going to show you how Google’s current handling of DMCA notices serves to bolster Internet piracy, thus making rights-owned content significantly easier for freeloaders to find. That may sound counter-intuitive, but we assure you that you’ll be shaking your head in disbelief shortly.
First, did you know that Google makes every DMCA notice sent to them publicly-available? Google does so by sending the notices to an organization called Chilling Effects Clearinghouse, who, in turn, posts them on their Website. It works like this:
1. A link is found in Google that leads to infringing content.
2. A take-down request (also know as a “DMCA notice”) is then sent to Google to ask that they remove the link from their index, thus preventing would-be freeloaders from finding it and downloading whatever resides there.
3. Google then sends that request to Chilling Effects, where its contents are then made public for all to see: who made the request, when it was made, what was requested for removal, etc.
Now, here’s where things get truly ridiculous. Google indexes content from the Chilling Effects Website…including the contents of DMCA requests. So, in effect, Google essentially re-indexes links that they remove. And to top it off, Google lets searchers know when they’ve searched for a term that’s had a link removed from the results, then Google links straight to the DMCA request that contains the removed result, effectively negating the removal of the link from their index in the first place. Here’s what that looks like:
The result of all of the aforementioned is that all the URLs that Google is asked to remove are not only re-indexed, but also kept in nice, tidy lists that are made public and presented in relevant search results. This essentially gives freeloaders a one-stop shop to nothing but relevant, variably-working links — all without having to sift through search results.
But enough talk. Let’s show you what everything we’ve mentioned actually looks like from the perspective of freeloaders looking to exploit this system (or simply utilize it, depending on how you view it). With one simple Google search query, an individual can search the Chilling Effects site for whatever they’re interested in finding:
Adobe Photoshop? Absolutely:
“Game of Thrones” episodes? You know it:
Battlefield 3 for Xbox 360? Sure thing:
To add insult to injury, Google safe-houses the Chilling Effects Website, effectively shielding it from take-down notices and inadvertently seeing to it that freeloaders can easily find valid links to what they’re searching for. Since many of the DMCA notices publicized on Chilling Effects contain valid links to copyrighted content, there have been DMCA notices sent to Google to remove publicly-visible DMCA notices from Chilling Effects…but guess what? Google refuses to remove those results. We know this because of Google’s extensively-detailed “Transparency Report” Website, where one can look-up countless metrics related to DMCA notices sent to Google, such as the number of notices that have been sent to them pertaining to a specific URL, like chillingeffects.org.
When delving through all of the DMCA notices sent to Google that contain links to Chilling Effects (many notices have URLs from numerous Websites, not just one, like chillingeffects.org), you quickly find that they take no action on them, as denoted in their “URLs from this domain not removed” section:
As for the first result in that list, where there is currently nothing notated, that’s because it’s pending (in this case, waiting to not be removed):
Google may mean well, but there’s clearly a problem with this line of thinking. If the intention of a DMCA request to Google is to ensure that one cannot find their way to certain content via a certain link, then the utilization of Google to find that link shouldn’t be feasible in any capacity. And to top it off, many anti-piracy outfits don’t want their paying clients to catch-on to this, because blasting automated DMCA notices to Google is BIG business (as of the date of this posting, nearly 25 million URLs have been requested for removal this month alone), and how would clients feel if they knew their money was being completely wasted in this manner?
It’s time for Google to reconsider their public treatment of DMCA notices. That, or awareness needs to occur on a significant scale that lets rights-holders know how ineffective DMCA notices to Google actually are — and, in some cases, how they may actually serve to make content even easier to find than if the links had remained buried in the first place.