Cease and Desist: Copyright Takedown Notices on Google Search
27 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2015 Last revised: 15 Aug 2015
Date Written: April 28, 2015
Since the passage of the DMCA, which provides the legal blueprint for copyright enforcement on the web, the strategies undertaken by entertainment companies to combat digital piracy have evolved. The effectiveness of their approaches, as well as potential chilling effects, have been widely examined. However, few studies explore enforcement strategies on Google Search. This paper aims to contribute to this discussion by examining copyright-related takedown notice requests issued to Google from March 2011 to March 2015. First, I frame the discussion against a larger historical overview of the evolution of copyright enforcement online. Second, I present the findings, which reveal a substantial growth in both takedown requests and a decrease in Google's noncompliance with them. These practices have become increasingly normative and hyper-concentrated among a small minority of entities, predominantly entertainment and porn companies. However, the takedown notices ultimately do little to curb online piracy. Moreover, an examination of the takedown process suggests they may have potential chilling effects for online competition and the openness of the Internet, particularly since the burden of proof of notice validity falls on the accused, for whom Google often lacks the means to effectively notify of the complaint. Finally, I address potential explanations for the fluctuations in takedown requests. I discuss the implications of the findings for the effectiveness of this copyright enforcement strategy.
Keywords: digital piracy, online copyright enforcement, takedown notices, Google Search
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