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Google reveals 11,348% increase in copyright takedown requests

The number of URLs Google was asked to remove from search results has increased by 11,348% in less than two years, according to a transparency report released by the search engine yesterday.

Some 56,874 requests to remove a URL on copyright grounds were submitted in the week of August 2011, compared to 6,510,714 requests in the week of November 18, 2013. While there is some fluctuation in the numbers from week to week, a graph of takedown requests shows a sharp upwards trend.

The figures also suggest that a relatively small number of alleged copyright owners and their representatives are issuing a large number of requests. Just 3,779 copyright owners and 1,975 reporting organisations, which generally work on their behalf, requested the removal of 23,945,710 URLs.

A FAQ accompanying the figures suggests that Google considered most of the complaints to be genuine. The search engine complied with 97% of the takedown requests it received between July and December 2011.

However, it appeared that a minority of those issuing takedown requests were either ignorant of copyright law or attempting to use it for nefarious purposes. Examples of requests Google received but did not comply with included a company requesting the removal of an employee's blog posts about unfair treatment, a driving school requesting the removal of a competitor's site on the grounds it copied an alphabetised list of cities, and an individual requesting the removal of links to court proceedings identifying her on the grounds that her name was copyrightable.

Google said that where legally permissible to do so, it attempts to notify webmasters whose sites are the subject of takedown requests and shares a copy of such requests with the publicly available Chilling Effects website.

The top five reporting organisations by number of takedowns requested in the past month were Degban with 5,483,209 URLs, BPI with 4,273,417 URLs, Recording Industry Association of America with 2,619,151 URLs, Fox Group Legal with 1,206,901 URLs and Unidam with 1,129,975 URLs.

The top five copyright owners by number of takedowns requested in the past month were BPI member companies, with 4,273,417 URLs, RIAA member companies, with 2,619,151 URLs, Hydentra, with 1,808,821 URLs, XFC, with 1,295,697 URLs and Fox with 1,206,901 URLs. 

A complete list of all copyright removal requests Google is able to publish can be found here

The Transparency Report also included data about government requests to remove content and requests for information about Google users.

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