The purpose of search engines is to help people find what they are looking for. Today’s web would be pretty much unusable without them.
This urge to search also comes with a downside, as not everything on the web is posted with permission. Pirate sites are a prime example.
Removing Pirate Sites from Search
A few years ago this led to rather bizarre situations where some content on pirate sites ended up higher in search results than the legal alternatives. This problem has been dealt with through takedown notices and downranking algorithms and is not much of an issue anymore.
That doesn’t mean that pirated content evaporated. With the right keywords, it’s still relatively easy to find. This is why search engines such as Google still process dozens of millions of DMCA notices every month.
The goal of these notices is to make pirated content disappear from search results. However, in some cases, copyright holders accidentally flag legal alternatives, which is rather counterproductive.
These errors are not as rare as it may first seem. For example, we often see Wikipedia entries being flagged, and legitimate review sites such as IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes have been reported many times over the years.
More direct attacks are an option too. Some takedown notices confuse Netflix with a pirate site, and the same has happened repeatedly to Disney+ and Hulu.
Needless to say, these takedown efforts are not helping people to find legal content. Quite the opposite. Luckily for copyright holders, Google catches most of these errors but that’s not always the case.
Making it Harder to Find Legal Content
Every now and then one of these errors slips by Google. Ironically, this also affects sites that are specifically designed to make it easier for people to find legal movies and TV series.
For example, the search engine Reelgood had 185 URLs flagged, of which 29 were removed by Google. For Reelgood’s competitor JustWatch, the numbers are even higher.
Luckily most of these takedown notices were ignored but when we browsed through the recent requests, we noticed that some Justwatch.com URLs were removed as well.
For example, a notice sent on behalf of “Binary Star Picture” removed a JustWatch page for the film “The Misadventures of Mistress Maneater” from Google’s search results. We don’t see anything remotely infringing on the page in question, which informs people that the film is available on Amazon Prime.
Google confirms the removal at the bottom of the search results where we read the following note:
“In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page,” Google notes instead.
Takedown requests by other rightsholders removed other JustWatch links, including the Russian page for “Boruto: Naruto Next Generations,” the Mexican drama series “As The Saying Goes, and the Indian series “Navarasa“.
The examples above are all from this month, and we didn’t even have to dive very deep to find them. That begs the question, how much other content is removed from Google without getting noticed?
When we take the massive volume of takedown notices into account it’s not surprising that some mistakes are made. That said, every incorrect removal is one too many, so there’s certainly still room for improvement.
From: TF, for the latest news on copyright battles, piracy and more.