Internet piracy war intensifies as Google's takedown requests skyrocket

Google has had over 100 million requests so far this year to remove pages that infringe worldwide copyright laws.

The search engine has been engaged in significant efforts to reduce piracy and saw the number of requests skyrocket, with the total for 2013 so far already double the amount it received for the whole of 2012.

‘Takedown’ requests are sent by and on behalf of copyright holders each week in order to try and limit the amount of copyrighted content online. The reports are made under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) as well as other related acts, and are usually done by third parties.

Those critical of the approach complain that a new URL is created almost as soon as one is taken down and another scheme needs to be devised that is more effective.

“As soon as you take down one page another pops up in its place,” said Mark Mulligan, a technology analyst at Midia Consulting told the BBC. “It's like playing Whac-A-Mole.”

Mulligan went on to explain the file sharing system is “very decentralised” and there is “no central server you can just shut down”.

Most of the requests involve peer-to-peer sites and those offering links to torrent downloads are among the most prolific. The torrent community is another that doesn’t think the current approach is an effective deterrent.

“This increase in requests is more about publishers putting pressure on Google to do more to tackle piracy,” Ernesto van der Sar, editor of Torrentfreak.com, said. “If people want to pirate they can always find a way to do so.”

Degban, a digital content protection specialist, is on the other side of the fence and sends Google around 300,000 requests for links to be removed each week on behalf of its clients.

Most of its requests are made on behalf of Froytal Services, a pornography producer, with various film studios and music industry bodies among those to submit the most requests.

Earlier this month, Google and a handful of tech giants teamed up with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the White House to reduce the ad revenue that is funneled to sites involved in copyright infringement.

The move is in line with Google’s previous assertion that following the money is the most effective way of combating illegal downloading.