Copyright holders were not shy about asking Google to remove pirated content in 2014. Last year, there were over 345 million requests to take down infringing content, according to a Torrent Freak summary of Google's weekly transparency reports. That's a 75 per cent increase from 2013. Google honoured most of the requests.
That's a huge increase from 2008, when the search engine received less than 100 takedown notices in a year. Now it processes over one million a day, with music industry groups going hard against sites sharing pirated content:
Most takedown requests were sent for the domains 4shared.com, rapidgator.net and uploaded.net, with more than five million targeted URLs each. The UK Music industry group BPI is the top copyright holder of 2014, good for more than 60 million reported links.
Last year, Google cracked down on Pirate Bay and other popular torrenting sites, changing its search algorithm to demote sites with lots of takedown notices. It was a capitulation amid tension between the tech company and groups like the MPAA and the RIAA that believe people will stop torrenting content if it's harder to find on Google. (Never mind that reports show that search isn't a leading traffic driver to torrenting sites. People who want to watch Fury early and for free are savvier than that.)
The glut of requests to kill torrenting sites and other infringing content shows how copyright holders are unfairly putting the onus on Google to control what information is available online. Google cannot neuter piracy. Getting rid of one linking site doesn't make it harder for people to create another one in the same amount of time.
The company's efforts to promote legal ways to access content are likely more fruitful than these hundreds of millions of attempts, pressured by copyright holders, to decapitate a seething, content-hungry hydra with infinitely multiplying heads and zero desire to pay for anything. The expectation that Google must act as a curator of legitimacy is an oversimplification of the piracy issue.
I've asked Google whether it will confirm this number and will update when I receive a response. [Torrent Freak]