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Google removed 1m DMCA links last month, 540,000 at the behest of Microsoft (wired.com)
84 points by rangibaby on May 25, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 33 comments



We are operating a company that is very removed from anything that one may commonsensically regard as copyrighted material: we do not stream videos, do not record videos, do not host videos, images or audio files. Our users send only text messages, somewhat like Twitter. We have public user groups. The number of defective DMCA notices has been rapidly increasing in the last 12 months, to the point that we spent multiple hours and signed an engagement letter with a well known San Francisco IP attorney, who called 95% of these notices "bogus", since they do not identify any infringing material. I think Google actually acts on a lot of deficient notices, removing the entire domains from its search, not just the deep links to copyright infringing materials, but the entire domains.


Google now makes it easier to find illegal content. The link http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/removals/copyright/... is a one stop shop.

I am wondering if that is annoying DMCA even more?


DMCA is a law. Laws cannot be annoyed.


Thanks for the link. Off-topic: the charts at http://www.google.com/transparencyreport/traffic/ should make the day of sociologists.

In countries that fit in a single timezone, one can find interesting activity patterns - e.g. I see a lunchtime dip and a post-dinner peak.


s/DMCA/MAFIAA/


I used to see these s/bad/better a lot around the web for many years. I could understand what it meant from the context so I never took the time to actually look around for an explication. I simply assumed it was an old BBS thing.

Well, until I started to learn Vim


Vim got it from sed :)


And think it's fair to say that both vi(m) and sed got it from ed.


Isn't taking down links because of "piracy" a very legal grey area, if not even illegal? I thought DMCA was supposed to be about the actual content, not links to the content.

And what the hell is Microsoft doing there? Are there really that many links to Windows iso's? I'd figure most would just get them through torrents. And speaking of which - does anyone still think Microsoft's banning of TPB links in MSN was just an accident?


Search engines aren't regulated, but clearly Google thinks it's legally safer to take down such links. I get the impression that some non-US sites don't comply with the DMCA (since they don't have to) and thus the copyright holders move their enforcement up the chain.


I'm not sure if that's right. You won't get google for inducing infringement or whatever, but there is:

"A service provider shall not be liable for monetary relief, or, except as provided in subsection (j), for injunctive or other equitable relief, for infringement of copyright by reason of the provider referring or linking users to an online location containing infringing material or infringing activity, by using information location tools, including a directory, index, reference, pointer, or hypertext link, if the service provider--

(A) does not have actual knowledge that the material or activity is infringing;

(B) in the absence of such actual knowledge, is not aware of facts or circumstances from which infringing activity is apparent; or

(C) upon obtaining such knowledge or awareness, acts expeditiously to remove, or disable access to, the material;"

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/512#d


Facebook bans TPB links in messages too. And goatse.cx


Interesting that filestube (a web search service covering links to filesharing websites) comes in well above the torrent search sites as no.1 for 'top targeted domains'. It seems a very abstract way of tackling the issue, preventing one search engine from linking to the results of another. Especially as (according to Wikipedia) filestube are happy to take down DMCA offending content themselves...

Also - it makes me wonder whether web-based piracy (through filesharing websites), which seemed to hardly exist a few years ago, is becoming the 'dominant' form of piracy...


I don't understand why Google even indexes Filestube given their policy against indexing SERPs (cf. Mahalo).


This is an attempt by Google to create the community norm "protecting your IP is censorship". Notice who benefits - Google repackages, indexes, and otherwise uses lots and lots of contents that it didn't create, from webpages to feeds to books.

This is not to say that Google is evil, or that protecting IP is more important than a free internet; but it is intimidating to see your "do not use my photograph/short story/program without permission" on the ominously named chillingeffects.org, and this is not an accident.


> but it is intimidating to see your "do not use my photograph/short story/program without permission" on the ominously named chillingeffects.org, and this is not an accident.

Considering how not-enforced the "knowingly materially misrepresents" clause has been on false DCMA takedown notices, I really hope it is intimidating (though the chillingeffects database has always been so low, it's pretty frustrating to use).

The name isn't an accident, it was chosen very deliberately, but as jrockway already said, Chilling Effects predates Google's contributions. For those who didn't click through:

"The Chilling Effects Clearinghouse is a unique collaboration among law school clinics and the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Conceived and developed at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society by Berkman Fellow Wendy Seltzer, the project is now supported by clinical programs at Harvard, Berkeley, Stanford, University of San Francisco, University of Maine, George Washington School of Law, and Santa Clara University School of Law clinics, and the EFF."

According to Wikipedia, Google started submitting the takedown notices it receives a year later, after the whole Scientology/Xenu.net DMCA thing[1].

Not to pile on too much, but this was too funny to skip:

"Helena Kobrin, lawyer for the Church of Scientology, stated she took offense at the name of [Chilling Effects], saying: 'It implies that the First Amendment gives people some special right to infringe copyrights.'"

:)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Clambake


According to http://www.chillingeffects.org/about, the chilling effects clearinghouse is not affiliated with Google. They just happen to contribute C&D notices heavily. (Similarly, Google does not own Linux, but they contribute source code.)

There seems to be some conception that contributing to non-profits or charitable organizations is wrong if you have an agenda. I don't understand that; though Google benefits from legal transparency and an Internet without censorship, isn't it nice that they contribute to non-profits that help further these causes? Do you want more censorship and hidden government proceedings instead?

As a published author, I certainly value free expression more than a few extra bucks from my book. Without what I've learned from the Internet, I'd probably be flipping burgers for a living.


What's hypocritical is that Google itself engages in "censorship" on a colossal scale, in the name of preventing spammy results (e.g. co.cc domains, not to mention Google's dealings with China). To be clear, I personally have no problem with this (in the same way that I have no problem with them removing links to copyrighted content), but they're obviously not handing over details of the sites they unilaterally delist to chillingeffects.com. So there's evidence of a double-standard.

Furthermore, while chillingeffects.org may, nominally, not be affiliated with Google, it is also apparent to anyone paying attention that Google is waging a proxy battle against copyright holders, through large donations (e.g. 7MM grant for the Lessig and his "remix culture" shills at EFF) to non-profits or charities with agendas hostile to rights holders and sympathetic to their expansive view of fair use doctrines.

When one takes into account Google's recent spending on lobbying (in recent quarters, it is well in excess of that spent by the e.g. RIAA), and their cavalier attitude to laws that don't suit them (tax/privacy), then it becomes fair to question their motives in arguing for an "open" internet.

> As a published author, I certainly value free expression more than a few extra bucks from my book.

You may well be a published author, but you are primarily employee at Google. You don't need to make money of your book(s); in fact, I'm sure you're quite happy to give the book away for free, since it bolsters your credentials and allows you to claim expertise in some area, which can then be monetized through employment. But this indirect avenue isn't available to musicians and non-technical writers -- there is no "mother Google" that will give them cushy jobs with free meals and other perks.

> Without what I've learned from the Internet, I'd probably be flipping burgers for a living.

I don't know your background, I don't want to be presumptive, and I realize you're being a bit flippant, but I'm guessing that if Google took you on, then you went to some top-tier university and you already come from a solidly (upper?) middle-class family. The idea that you'd be flipping burgers is inconceivable in the worst of possible worlds.

Just to be clear, I have nothing against Google; I think they do great stuff. I'm a big fan of Dart language, for example, and think Google has a lot of cool tech. And I think that on balance, they're probably more a force for good than for evil. But having worked for a (morally ambiguous) company like Goldman Sachs, I know from personal experience that the initial enthusiasm at working at a new (and wildly successful) company can have an effect akin to wearing rose-tinted glasses.

Incidentally, are Google hiring? ;)


When I first read your comment I thought you had a good point, but now that I've thought about it for a few hours, I disagree.

Takedown notices slow progress throughout our industry, whether legally justified or not. If you look at the comment threads below this one, many are asking questions like, "I want to start a website, should I worry about this?" to which the replies are, "yes, hire a lawyer". That's good advice in this legal climate, but it slows progress tremendously.

If someone just wants to share their weekend project, they're out a few hours and ten bucks a month to host the thing. But they're exposing them to potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal liabilities; perhaps they miss some takedown notes while they are away on vacation. That's a pricey lawsuit should someone be inclined to pursue it. (And there's no indication that rightsholders won't.) The initial legal consultation regarding a site you want to launch is not cheap either -- an hour with a lawyer buys you a year of Amazon EC2 CPU time.

The end result is that people that want to share their programming work won't because they decide it's too legally risky. Sites like The Chilling Effect Clearinghouse let us see what sort of takedown notices are currently popular and plan our services accordingly. If that happens to discourage rightsholders from enforcing their rights, well, that's fine with me. I want to see new ways of using the Internet, even if it comes at the expensive of the big copyright holders.

As for removing spam from search results; that's actually a warming effect. Because Google removes spam results, small companies have the opportunity to compete with or compliment Google here. All they need to do is create an "uncensored" all-spam-site web index and offer that to the wider Internet community. The people that want to search spam sites will then be able to, creating value and a new business model. (Look at how successful DuckDuckGo has been, and all they do is wrap Bing's results. A new index could be amazingly successful.)


btw, rereading my post, I see now that the tone is somewhat snarky and accusative, so I apologize for that.

> Takedown notices slow progress throughout our industry, whether legally justified or not. If you look at the comment threads below this one, many are asking questions like, "I want to start a website, should I worry about this?" to which the replies are, "yes, hire a lawyer". That's good advice in this legal climate, but it slows progress tremendously.

I agree that's a factor, but I think the case is somewhat overstated. If you look at the list of top targeted companies on the blog post, you'll see names like filestube.com, torrentz.eu, etc. As far as I can tell, copyright-infringing material is the bread-and-butter of these firms. If the legal costs go up for them, then that's actually the goal. But companies like Instagram, airbnb, ridejoy, etc... I don't think they would have serious issues with, or incur substantial costs because of, the DMCA. Basically, if your business isn't leveraging copyrighted material to gain popularity without paying rights holders for it, you'll be ok.

Also, Bastiat's dictum on "what you see, and what you don't see" applies: what you see is companies/units like YouTube getting embroiled in legal action and you think, "these laws aren't worth it". What you don't see are the companies that never make it (particularly in software) because of piracy, or the spectrum of business models that become unfeasible as a result of the fact that users have grown hooked to free content.

> As for removing spam from search results; that's actually a warming effect

I totally agree -- I just wish Google applied the same philosophy to copyright infringing links and material. IMHO the afore-mentioned sites/links are very much like spam in the copyrights arena -- they operate at the margins of respectable and honest practices. I think the internet would benefit, long-term, if rights holders were protected from infringement, as a result of the fact that the ad-based business model would be supplemented by a viable direct-payment model.


Your comment is relatively polite and you clearly put a lot of work into it, so I'm not going to downvote, but you're making a pretty violent asserion here with essentially no evidentiary support beyond the most basic aspects. It's a bit like if I read this post and decided to rant about how you're clearly an Oracle shill — maybe you are, maybe you aren't, but it's unwarranted either way.


So what kind of content is Microsoft asking for takedowns of?


Software piracy.


So if Microsoft requested 543,000 links be removed from Google's index in just one month, it really makes me wonder how much of Bing is censored.


The fact Microsoft is the #1 requester isn't a surprise to me. The 2nd most popular search engine probably automatically identifies "bad" content then siphons off this list to Google. If Google had more paid products (that weren't ad driven), I'd expect Google to be the largest referrer of Bing DMCA requests.


"Overall, Google received 1.24 million requests from 1,296 copyright owners for removal the past month. They targeted 24,129 domains."

Must be a full time job to fill out all those forms.


> Must be a full time job to fill out all those forms.

If you look at the list of the top submitters of notices, you will see several organizations which do exactly that on behalf of IP owners, like Web Sheriff.


There might be quite a few full time jobs — although you could outsource that sort of work with ease, and automate much of the process. On the flip side I'm surprised that nobody has really abused this on a massive scale yet -- imagine if someone did a DOS style avalanche of take down notices


the suffix 'm' means 'one thousand'. if you want to abbreviate 'million', use 'mm'.



Yes, really. Your own link confirms it at the top:

> The standard financial abbreviation for million is MM, e.g. $300 MM.

If you use MM, basically everyone will understand. If you use M, some people will assume million but anyone with experience in finance (or anywhere close) will read "thousand".

I pretty sure the blurb at the bottom of your link is wrong, though. 'M' as an abbreviation doesn't come from Roman numerals. That claim is all over the Internet, but I don't believe it's true. The 'M' is for mille, meaning "thousand". We use this in all sorts of terms, like millennium, millipede, "per mil", etc.


Just use kk (kilo*kilo) for million :) everybody is happy?


Nope, because financial people are set in their ways. :) MM isn't going away any time soon.




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