99.95% of the copyright takedown notices received by Google are non-existent, according to Google. In a filing with the U.S. Copyright Office obtained by TorrentFreak, Google noted that there had been an increase in these notices, and that many of them “appear to be duplicative, unnecessary, or mistaken.”
The letter was a response to a request for comment by the U.S. Copyright Office, which opened the issue due to complaints from various rightsholders. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), Google and other search or content providers are not required to actively police content uploaded to their service. They are also not liable for the actions of any users that do upload copyrighted content. However, rights holders can file a takedown notice, which the provider must assume to be valid, or lose their immunity.
Google claims that they’ve gone “above and beyond the requirements of the DMCA safe harbors” by adding additional systems such as its ContentID system on YouTube. Google says that it has “more than 8,000 partners for ContentID,” containing “more than 50 million reference files.” In addition, they take into account the number of DMCA requests they receive for a particular domain, and a large number of requests will negatively affect its ranking in Google’s search.
Critics of the DMCA’s takedown notice system often note that while DMCA takedowns are written under penalty of perjury, there’s no actual penalty or repercussion for malicious or false takedowns. Most notably, there was the eight year long case of Lenz v. Universal Music Corp, in which Universal filed a takedown notice to YouTube over a video of a baby dancing to a Prince song. Eventually the judge ruled that fair use must be taken into consideration by the rights holder before issuing a takedown notice.
Despite these steps, Google says most of the notices it receives are “duplicative, unnecessary, or mistaken.” “A substantial number of takedown requests submitted to Google are for URLs
that have never been in our search index, and therefore could never have appeared in our search results.” They also note that many of the notices they received were for URL’s that simply did not exist.