Google fields requests to pull a million search results a month

Macworld Australia Staff
26 May, 2012
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Google received requests to purge more than a million links from its search results in March, according to the search giant’s monthly “transparency report.”

The request-for-removal metric is a new one, appearing in the latest version of the report released Thursday in the US.

According to the report, Google received requests from some 2400 copyright owners and reporting organisations to purge from search results more than 1.2 million links contained on 24,374 domains.

On average, Google says that it removes from its search results 97 percent of the links that rights holders or their representatives request be purged from the results.

Top copyright-owning link-killers during March, Google reports, were Microsoft, which asked that more than half a million (546,716) URLs be sanitised from search results; NBC Universal (165,662); BPI – British Recorded Music Industry – (151,087); porn site Elegant Angel (41,803); and the RIAA (31,922).

Top targets of the link purgers were filestube.com, with 41,307 contested links; torrentz.eu (22,551); 4shared.com (20,158); torrentreactor.net (18,856); and zippyshare.com (18,844).

Purge requests increase

According to Google Senior Copyright Counsel Fred von Lohman, requests for URL purges have been snowballing. “These days it’s not unusual for us to receive more than 250,000 requests each week, which is more than what copyright owners asked us to remove in all of 2009,” he writes in a company blog.

While requests for URL purges have increased, so has Google’s response time to those requests, according to von Lohman. Through the use of improved tools, the company has pared its average processing time for an URL purge request to 11 hours.

He also emphasises that Google makes efforts to evaluate the validity of infringements claimed by rights holders before sanitising links in search results.

“[W]e recently rejected two requests from an organisation representing a major entertainment company, asking us to remove a search result that linked to a major newspaper’s review of a TV show,” he writes. “The requests mistakenly claimed copyright violations of the show, even though there was no infringing content.”

“We’ve also seen baseless copyright removal requests being used for anticompetitive purposes, or to remove content unfavorable to a particular person or company from our search results,” he adds.

In addition to reviewing purge requests itself, Google also notifies webmasters when their site is targeted by a copyright removal request so they can contest requests themselves.

Requests for link purges are made to Google under authority of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Since that law was passed in 1998, it has changed very little. That’s prompted some groups to call for an overhaul of the law.

One area that’s changed since passage of the DMCA is how the law treats ‘jailbreaking’ devices. It allows it. However, that’s currently under review by the US Patent and Trademark office.

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