Washington DC
23 October 2015
Reporter: Mark Dugdale

Google dismisses entire website removal


Google has rejected calls from copyright owners for the removal of entire websites from search results because it is ineffective and can easily result in censorship.

The internet company was responding to US IP enforcement coordinator Danny Marti’s request last month for comments on the country’s enforcement priorities.

Among its proposed enforcement priorities was a dismissal of the entire removal of websites from search listings “because it is rare indeed for a site to consist wholly of infringing material”.

“Blogging sites contain millions of pages from hundreds of thousands of users as do social networking sites, ecommerce sites, and cloud computing services. All can inadvertently contain material that is infringing,” explained Google.

The current takedown system, as fashioned by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, requires copyright owners to send individual requests for specific pages to be blocked from search results.

This system, copyright owners have argued, is costly and fails to solve the problem permanently. But the removal of entire websites was widely rejected when the copyright-friendly Stop Online Piracy Act was proposed in 2012, according to Google, because of concerns about free speech.

“Removing or blocking an entire site could not only impinge on free speech by entirely removing lawful pages that appear on the same site as pages containing infringing content, but it would also be counterproductive.”

Removing entire websites from search results “would simply drive piracy to new domains, legitimate sites, and social networks”, according to Google.

A better approach would be to “follow the money” and “choke off” revenue sources. “Since [piracy] sites are dedicated to making money, taking away sources of money is the most effective approach”.

“Finally, whole-site removal sends the wrong message to other countries by favouring over-inclusive private censorship over the rule of law. If the US embraces such an overbroad approach to address domestic law violations, it will embolden other countries to seek similar whole-site removal remedies for violations of their laws (for example, insults to the king, dissident political speech).”

“This would jeopardise free speech principles, emerging services, and the free flow of information online globally and in contexts far removed from copyright.”

As part of its comment letter, Google also revealed how it is contributing to the ‘follow the money’ approach through enforcement on its AdWords programme.

Google said has shut down more than 100,000 AdWords accounts in the last three years for attempting to advertise fake goods.

Its “significant engineering and machine resources” are responsible for more than 99 percent of AdWords account terminations. Those resources have received more than $60 million in investment over the last year.

Google also banned 7,000 advertisers in 2014 for promoting counterfeit goods, which is down from 14,000 in 2013 and 82,000 in 2012.

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