Google Is Now Under Attack by ‘Robo DMCA’ Takedown Requests

The 'Robo DMCA' Takedown Machine
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Google is now getting deluged by tens of millions of DMCA takedown requests a day.  It’s all part of a plan by major media companies to beat the search giant into submission.  Will it work?

Google says the DMCA is a great anti-piracy law that works for everyone.  Media industries say the DMCA is a loophole for massive illegal piracy, which is making Google rich while destroying their empires.  Congress isn’t doing anything to settle the dispute.

So what is a Hollywood studio, major recording label, or pornography studio to do?

Introducing the ‘Robo DMCA’ takedown notice, designed to beat Google into submission.  Suddenly, companies specialized in identifying infringement, drafting notifications, and blasting them to Google are getting more efficient.  Doubly efficient, actually.

Maybe this brutal game of submission will finally work.  In the past year alone, the number of takedown requests directed at Google has more than doubled.

This isn’t inside information from an inside source.  The information is published by Google itself.  Check it out.

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As you can see, Google is now fielding more than 24 million individual takedown requests per day, compared to 11.2 million last year.  That’s a 115.2% increase in just one year, or easily more than double (100% increase = double).

And just for comparison: in late September of 2012, Google was handling fewer than 1.7 million requests per day.  That’s a 14-fold increase in just four years, and part of an aggressive effort to outright flood Google with DMCA takedown requests.

It’s a simple game of firepower.  And major media companies are now figuring out ways to completely overwhelm a seemingly invincible company.  Because every time Google is alerted of a copyright violation, they must remove the link under DMCA law.  And if Google can’t comply with millions in takedown requests, they’re in violation of copyright law.

So what happens next?

A major flaw with the DMCA is that removed links simply reappear the next day.  It’s a constant game of whack-a-mole, which is why the recording industry, Hollywood, and other industries want Google to institute a ‘take down, stay down’ response.

Google has flat-out refused, though the price of that refusal is brutal.  Now, the search giant is dealing with millions and millions of takedowns every hour, with massive ‘robo’ escalations ahead.  This is war.

Stay tuned.


‘We Are Robots’ image by Duncan Hall, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0).

11 Responses

  1. Troglite

    According to Chris Castle, Google has been flooding the US Copyright Office with deceptive, but potentially legal NOI’s.

    This article leaves me wondering if the flood of NOI’s is Google’s attempt to retaliate against the intentional increase in DMCA notices described.

    Both efforts seems to have similar goals. One uses automation to make defects in the DMCA more visible. The other uses automation to make defects in the copyright registration and compulsory licensing process more visible.

    • Anonymous

      Unlikely. NOIs only cover mechanical publishing rights for audio-only uses. This means it can’t be used to license anything on YouTube, which is a synchronization use. They’re probably using it for the Google Play subscription service, for any songs in which they’re unable to identify who owns the publishing rights. This won’t do anything to help with DMCA notices for YouTube or search.

  2. Thedudeabidez

    I don’t know that this is an intentional “strategy” on the part of media companies; it is an unavoidable result of Google’s unwillingness to consider take down equals stay down. If a copyright holder requests a take down, and the same material is posted again the next day and the next and the next, multiply that by all the labels, filmmakers, musicians, photographers, authors, software developers etc. out there, and yes they are going to get hit with tens of millions of takedowns. Google thought they were so clever that they could play whack a mole forever, and swamp copyright holders into submission, but know what they’re facing is content creators who are also using algorithms to scan google and automate their take down response . It was not physically possible to keep up with the pace of takedown requests before, which was exactly how Google liked it. Now that it’s automated, they’re getting a taste of their own medicine

  3. Anonymous

    Sorry Paul, there’s no robo army.

    There’s just a piracy company that breaks the law 24 million times every day.

    And we try to keep up with that fact.

  4. Think It Through

    It’s likely not the result of any intentional strategy, but merely the natural progression of increases in both uploads to YouTube – and resting takedown notices – as use of the site increases.

    That’s certainly the way Google says they see it.

    But even if it were an overt attempt to clood Google with automated, unchecked DMCA notices:

    “It’s a simple game of firepower. And major media companies are now figuring out ways to completely overwhelm a seemingly invincible company.”

    Hmmmmmm…. the largest market cap company ON THE PLANET, “overwhelmed” by a collapsing industry and their copyright enforcement partner, that is quite publicly going bankrupt.

    I know who I would bet on, in that fight.

    “Because every time Google is alerted of a copyright violation, they must remove the link under DMCA law.”


    Google has to timely respond to PROPER DMCA notices. If there is an explicit plan to flood Google/YouTube with notices, chances are many of those notices are defective.

    “A major flaw with the DMCA is that removed links simply reappear the next day.”

    I know editorial restraint is in rare presence here at DMN but, it’s not a “flaw.” It’s precisely the way the DMCA was designed. It works exactly as the record companies asked for and agreed to.

    “Google has refused ….the price of that refusal is brutal.”

    Again, literally no one is in a better position to field an onslaught like rhis than Google/YouTube. If “this is war,” I’m betting on the best financed and equipped side to win.

    • Alexander Forbes

      The huge increase in DMCA volumes is largely a result of automation. All the major music, film anti-piracy businesses are automated and there’s an important reason why this is the case.

      Despite constant protestations about how piracy is killing off their business, no one in the music wants to pay decent money for a good anti piracy solution. Instead, that’s the major reason why there’s a whole raft of slow, inaccurate automated takedown services that provide an ineffective solution for chump change (£10 per EP per month, £40 per album per month etc). That’s why Web Sheriff, Gray Zone, Ripblock etc are all on their arses. They’re all much better than Audiolock, Muso, Link-Busters and Toppletrack but no one wants to pay extra for a better service.

      It’s symptomatic of a culture that wants something for nothing i.e. pirates not paying for content, music labels not wanting to pay a decent amount for a bespoke anti-piracy service.

      Most of the DMCA Notices submitted by the aforementioned automated businesses are wildly inaccurate. If Google actually had time to properly check all the DMCA Notices being submitted, nearly all of these businesses would be banned from their Trusted Partner Program due to abuse of the DMCA.