Rule of law

In February, I wrote a short post noting that in the month prior, a small number (1,800) of organizations had submitted nearly 13.5 million requests to Google, each seeking removal of a URL from Google's database. At the time I concluded:

When a small group of companies and trade organizations organizes to flood the market with takedown requests, the prospects for due process diminish. The DMCA was written with courts of law in mind. For digital content, a commercial entity is our emerging court of law.

A recent report by BBC News found that the pace of copyright removal requests had not abated. In the first seven months of 2013, Google had received 100 million such requests, and it had acted on almost all of them.

The BBC News article contains the usual range of opinions about whether removal requests are an effective strategy. The comment that resonated came from Ernesto van der Sar, editor of, a web site that tracks developments in the BitTorrent space. Commenting on a erroneous request made by Microsoft's anti-piracy agent to remove links to Microsoft's sites, van der Sar said:

Mistakes are made as most of this activity is automated, but Google is pretty good at filtering them out.

It's understandable that "most of this activity is automated". When you're receiving something like half a million requests a day, you're not going to hand-pick the ones that make sense to remove.

Perhaps unintentionally, van der Sar reinforces the point I made in February: we've passed beyond the rule of law here. I'm not sure if there really are 14 million new piracy URLs every month, or if the enforcement community has found that there is strength in impossibly large numbers.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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