Google’s Transparency Report: A Step Backward for IP Theft and Copyright Protection?

When I first read that a new factor in Google’s ranking algorithm was going to be DMCA take down notices,  just like the rest of the Search Engine Optimization community I was a bit shocked and curious about how this would play out.  Could this mean a whole new round of fake take down notices to attempt to hurt a competitor’s rankings in the SERPs?  Take look at the increase in these notices and I will let you judge for yourself:

DMCA URL Removal Requests Aug 2012

In my opinion it looks like it has jumped a bit, no?  It appears possible that people in the SEO industry may have seen this as a way to gain an advantage over a competitor and fire off some DMCA reports.  All they would have to do is report a competitor and watch Google penalize the competition in the SERPs, in turn making their own sites rank higher.

The entire Google Transparency report and the information in it is interesting, anyone involved in copyright or IP law should take a look. After I reviewed the report there was one main point that struck me — the transparency.  But in this case is Google perhaps being too transparent? I was basically just handed a list of over 30,000 websites which have the possibility of containing pirated material and various cases of Intellectual Property theft.

The first place that drew this to my attention was a small list of some of the worst offenders, which included a link to the entire list:

Google's image for top offenders as of August 2012

A quick copy and paste into my browser bar of any of these sites showed they were either torrent related, streamed full movies or had file storage.  File storage that could contain anything from pirated software to navigation DVDs for various car manufacturers. (Disclaimer: This being an election year I would like to do my best to keep my own actions transparent; I will fully admit that I at one time tried a torrent, but I did not inhale.)

But what was the one thing missing from the list? Probably the epicenter of DMCA requests from anyone in the entertainment industry: Youtube.

This was first pointed out to me by one of my followers, Matt Mikulla, on Twitter.  I looked a bit deeper on the site and was able to find a disclaimer on the home page in a pull-down tab:

Google's DMCA Disclaimer

So Google is transparently admitting they are not including any of their own properties (e.g., Youtube.com, Blogger.com and Picasa.com), which is okay, but they are also not including any data from mailed or fax complaints.  The only problem with this is anyone can submit a web form, but it requires a bit more transparency to make yourself less anonymous by submitting a written or faxed request.  I would have expected them to only accept written complaints they can verify for something that may effect their results algorithm.

Of course, there is the issue of publishing the list in the first place. By simply visiting any of the links on the first page I had access to more copyrighted material and Intellectual Property than an entire Best Buy™ legitimately sells in the first 5 minutes after they open for Black Friday.

Transparency on the internet has always been an issue that many companies struggle to address. There are so many I won’t even attempt to give any examples, especially since I would not want to single anyone out.  I applaud the effort at Google’s transparency, I only criticize the information they decided to disclose.  Personally I feel such a list has a potential to drive visitors to illegal sites; however, I also realize this list makes it easier for corporate legal teams to find and identify sites which other IP owners have already reported, and that they in turn may also want to report.  If you’re interested in protecting your brand’s copyrighted information, I would definitely suggest you review the list.

And there is the one issue that sort of makes the whole transparency list a little less transparent, the fact that Google decided not to include their own sites.  I’m sure they are appropriately policing their own site, after all, they should be equally protective of their own content on Youtube as they are of what they allow to appear in their SERPs in order to deliver quality results.  But I would be very interested to find out what percentage of that list was comprised of videos on Youtube …

 

Tags: copyright, DMCA, google, Intellectual Property, take down notices, torrents, transparency

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