For the average internet user, the seemingly endless content found on the web is quite easily taken for granted. Most give no thought as to where the images, videos, or words that turn up in a simple search come from. But whether it's considered or not, all of this material has an owner somewhere. Fewer still are the number of internet denizens who would know how to properly cite someone else's material, or even think to. And recent data from Google show that more than ever, these owners are taking steps to protect their rights.
The website Torrent Freak compiled weekly reports issued by Google over the past year and determined there were over 345 million requests to remove allegedly infringing links from their search engine in 2014. The report lists 4shared.net, rapidgator.net, uploaded.net, and GoSong.net among the leading offenders in takedown requests. Conversely, the UK music group was the leader in seeking URL takedowns with over 60 million requests. Torrent Freak also notes that while not listed among top offenders, it seems a likely bet that YouTube would make the grade as a serial offender given the overwhelming volume of content on their site.
While Google does honor most requests to remove infringing URLs, critics such as the MPAA and RIAA believe the company should do more to try and tamp down piracy. The company has responded to such criticism by changing its algorithm to reduce the ranking of sites that are the frequent subject of takedown requests. While such measures can reduce the visibility and traffic of some sites engaging in online piracy, simply removing one offender will seemingly do little to address the larger issue. Once pirated or infringing material becomes available to the masses, it is nearly impossible to root out, as users can save the files to their computer and start again at a new site.
A quick personal story: I was on a ship that was deployed from fall 2010 to summer 2011, and pirated movies ran rampant throughout the crew. All it took was one person with a hard drive full of movies from a torrent site who lent it to a couple people, and those people lent theirs to a few people, and by the end of the trip everyone with a hard drive and a desire to get some free movies had a hard drive full of pirated content. All this goes to illustrate that infringing or pirated material can easily pervade an environment, whether it's a ship or an internet community, and it will undoubtedly take more than the efforts of Google to eradicate it.
How do you best protect your content? Find out in the "Intellectual Property Best Practices" ebook.