In the modern age, Google has become the repository of almost all knowledge. There's hardly a fact or story or video that can't be tracked down with the right search. Given how much is online these days, it comes as no surprise that Google and other content hosts have to deal with copyright issues. But recent reports on the number of complaints is both shocking and concerning.
Torrent Freak reports that the number of copyright takedown requests Google receives has reached 100,000 per hour. The article notes that given the amount of sites that Google hosts and indexes, the copyright complaints represent a small percentage of all sites, and that most copyright complaints are handled within a few hours.
However, the numbers represent yet another year-over-year increase in the amount of copyright takedown requests the company has received. As Business Insider notes, the figure for the past year is three times larger than the year before, and the increase since 2006 stands at something close to a billion percent.
The reasons for such an increase are undoubtedly manifold. The size and scope of the internet has also grown exponentially over the past decade, and as such the sheer amount of content available online has undoubtedly grown in step. And copyright holders are more aware than ever about the potential for theft and infringement and are increasingly vigilant in looking for people who are misusing their work. And the advent of software that can help search of infringement has only aided in this .
But is this hyper-vigilance possibly a bad thing? In writing about the increase, Gizmodo points to the susceptibility of the DCMA to abuse and suggests that large, corporate copyright holders could be using the system to their advantage. Erring on the side of caution means that Google and other hosts are far more likely to take down material that has receive a complaint, regardless of the request's validity, rather than find themselves part of a lawsuit. That means that rights holders with the necessary resources could potentially take a "shotgun approach," flagging any material that seems even vaguely infringing.
The current trend raises questions about the future of copyright practices on the internet. Rights surely must be protected, but the current rate of increase for takedown requests would seem to be challenging to keep up with, even for a company with the resources of Google. And the process should ideally be used for valid complaints, and free from abuse. Will the government need to address or even reform current law to deal with the growing trend? It's worth keeping an eye on in the future.