That Google’s search engine results include links to material that may not be entirely legal isn’t exactly news to anyone who’s ever used the feature. But today, in an update to its ongoing Transparency Report, Google released information about just which copyright owners are most vocal in their upset about this fact, and it might not be exactly who you think.
Google’s Transparency Report has long contained information about takedown requests it has received from governmental bodies across the world in relation to its search results, but today’s update is the first time that it has included public information relating to copyright-related removal (It isn’t, however, the first time such information has been available to the public; Google has partnered with Chilling Effects, a joint project of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and multiple US university law clinics including Harvard, Stanford and Berkeley, to store its takedown data).
According to the report, in the past year, almost 8,000 copyright owners have contacted Google to request removal of search results leading to copyright infringing work, with Microsoft Corporation surprisingly leading the way in number of requests, followed by NBCUniversal and then members of the Recording Industry Association of America. Microsoft has reported 23,463 domains in the past twelve months, with a staggering 2,544,209 separate URLs being named in complaints. By comparison, NBCUniversal’s next place seems almost low (15,589 domains and 985,995 URLs), with third place RIAA again offering a significant stepdown in quantity (6,903 domains, 416,731 URLs).
Perhaps unsurprisingly, three of the top 10 companies in terms of complaint volume in the past year are porn companies (Froytal Services, in fourth place with 208 domains and 339,098 URLs, BangBros.com in ninth place with 2,047 domains and 146,024 URLs, and RK NetMedia in tenth with 1,927 domains and 143,253 domains), with the remaining four places split between music labels and, unexpectedly, online market analysis company Marketly.
Talking to Ars Technica, Google’s Senior Copyright Counsel Fred von Lohmann said that the company removes around 97 percent of requested links after review, with the average takedown time being 11 hours. The company rejects some if requests include incorrect information, with others being rejected on the grounds that the request is unfair and the content found at a link is not, in fact, infringing on existing copyrights. As if to illustrate the latter instance, von Lohmann described in a blog entry the company’s rejection of “two requests from an organization representing a major entertainment company, asking us to remove a search result that linked to a major newspaper’s review of a TV show,” as well as requests from companies hoping to hide their competition.
“Transparency is a crucial element to making this system work well,” von Lohmann argues, adding that the company “look[s] forward to making more improvements to our Transparency Report—offering copyright owners, Internet users, policymakers and website owners the data they need to see and understand how removal requests from both governments and private parties affect our results in Search.”