Use of Google's takedown tool for search results has grown tenfold in the past six months, the company reports. When it started publicly posting takedown notices in late May, around 250,000 requests a week went through the system — which lets people or companies ask Google to remove links that infringe on their copyright. Now, that number has jumped to over 2.5 million a week. That's a huge change, but not an unprecedented one, as requests have been increasing rapidly for the past several years. Back in May, Google reported that the 250,000 requests it received in a week were more than it got for the entirety of 2009.
Despite some high-profile gaffes, Google suggests most requests are legitimate
Copyright holders have been criticized for casting a wide, automated net that captures innocent sites along with infringing ones, an argument bolstered by erroneous requests to remove links to the BBC and even government websites. Google, however, implies that these requests are overwhelmingly legitimate. "Between December 2011 and November 2012, we removed 97.5 percent of all URLs specified in copyright removal requests," it says in a blog post. That doesn't necessarily mean all the links were infringing, as Google's own takedown systems aren't above reproach. But combined with the massive growth of requests, it does suggest that links to copyrighted material are proliferating, rightsholders are being increasingly aggressive about removing them, or both.
That doesn't mean Google is thrilled about acting as a copyright cop. Before announcing its numbers, it writes that "as policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online." Google has responded to previous criticism by downranking sites that receive a high volume of takedown requests and generally promoting the efficacy of its anti-infringement efforts, but it's still in the middle of a long-running fight between politicians, industry groups, and pirates.