Google Says It Removes 1 Million Infringing Links Monthly

Each month, Google removes more than 1 million links to infringing content such as movies, video games, music and software from its search results — with about half of those requests for removal last month coming from Microsoft.

The search and advertising giant revealed the data Thursday as it released sortable analytics on the massive number of copyright takedown requests it receives — adding to its already existing data on the number of times governments ask for users’ personal data.

The Mountain View, California-based company removes links to comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA requires search engines to remove links to infringing content at a rights holder’s request or else face liability for copyright infringement itself. Google said it complies with about 97 percent of requests, which are submitted via an online form and usually approved via a Google algorithm.

The disclosure marks the first time a major internet search engine divulged its DMCA compliance numbers. The development comes months after some lawmakers blasted Google’s position against the Stop Online Piracy Act, an anti-piracy measure that would have fundamentally altered the DNS system, a core part of the net’s infrastructure in the name of piracy.

Google rejected some of the requests, Fred von Lohmann, Google’s senior copyright attorney said, because “the form is incomplete, the web page doesn’t exist or we look at it and say we don’t think it is infringing.”

The top rights holders demanding removal of links were Microsoft, at 543,000 last month, the British Recorded Music Industry at 162,000 and NBC at 145,000. The top targeted sites hosting allegedly infringing content were at more than 43,000, at more than 23,000, and at more than 22,000.

The Pirate Bay, the most notorious online haven for copyrighted content, came in at an unimpressive 13th place, with 10,245 requests for takedowns of links to the site.

Von Lohmann said the data could be useful as lawmakers debate laws aimed at combating online infringement.

“Obviously, we know that policy makers in the U.S. and elsewhere are trying to think of proposed solutions to the online infringement problem,” he said. “In our view, those discussions are benefited by accurate data.”

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

The data largely goes back nearly a year, around the time Google began automating its removal procedure and making it easier for rights holders to issue demands via an online link. Sortable data before that time was not readily available, von Lohmann said.  But before the removal process became automated, Google said in a blog post that it removed less than 250,000 links in all of 2009.

Removal of links has become big business, as rights holders often farm out such duties. Marketly, of Redmond, Washington, issued almost 462,000 demands for link removal, earning it the top spot last month. The British Recorded Music Industry came in second last month, with more than 190,000 links.

NBC was apparently the only major organization working on its own behalf, according to Google’s data.