The rightsholders’ war of attrition against the internet

Google’s official blog yesterday announced that the company has started to provide “information about who sends us copyright removal notices, how often, on behalf of which copyright owners and for which websites.” Google’s official policy is to respond to copyright removal requests where they meet the standards set out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). The released data starts from July 2011 and will be updated daily from now on.

The initial data shows that takedown notices are rising dramatically, frequently now exceeding 250,000 per week. This is more than the entire number for 2009. “In the past month alone,” reports Google’s blog, “we received about 1.2 million requests made on behalf of more than 1,000 copyright owners to remove search results. These requests targeted some 24,000 different websites.”

The statistics show that the two most active reporting organizations are Marketly llc (for Microsoft) and the BPI (British Recorded Music Industry). The copyright owners most frequently cited are Microsoft and the BPI. The two most targeted websites are filestube.com and torrentz.eu. Somewhat surprisingly given the music industry’s widespread and continuous European legal action against it, The Pirate Bay is only the 15th most-targeted site.

A recent takedown notice from the BPI against TPB can be seen on the Chillingeffects website. Dated 11 May it claims that URL http://tpb.pirateparty.org.uk/torrent/7115568/White_Wizzard_-Flying_Tigers_(2011)[mp3_320] infringes on the copyrighted White Wizzard album from the Flying Tigers heavy metal band. Notice, however, that the takedown notice is not for The Pirate Bay itself, but for the UK Pirate Party’s TPB proxy. Since TPB is legally blocked in the UK (not yet by all the ISPs, and far from uniformly across Europe), this would appear to be an action aimed specifically against UK file sharers – and demonstrates what many would would consider to be the impossibility of the rightsholders’ course of action. Firstly, while the Pirate Party proxy URL is no longer returned by Google Search, the original TPB URL remains – and for many UK file-sharers is still directly accessible. Furthermore, to be effective, BPI will need to issue new takedowns for every new proxy as soon as it appears, while the Streisand Effect will make the whereabouts of White Wizzard Flying Tigers more widely known.

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