A smart way exists for Google to guess whether copyright infringement is happening, which is of using the DMCA ‘takedown’ requests. Due to these requests, the pirated content can be removed from Google. It is just a matter of filing a request and that pirate site can be easily thrown out from search results. Although this is not an evidence of copyright infringement, it acts as an allegation that can be challenged. Keeping this in mind, Google assesses each request and removes the content only after it deems valid.
It would not be wrong to say that filing such a request was a painful task, because each request only addressed one Web page. This was true in case the target Web site is big. However, today, the anti-pirate game’s target has changed from page-by-page to site-by-site basis. A guide to most likely to be affected sites is available on online transparency report showing the rank of sites according to the total number of takedowns obtained.
Therefore, if your site has received too many DMCA ‘takedown’ requests, it is high time to look out. This is because a new penalty is out to lower its rank in Google’s search results. Further, it is applied in conjunction with other penalties or updates such as Penguin and Panda.
Protecting Your Site
On the other side of the coin, many are worried about this penalty negatively impacting their site. The fear comes both from a variety of sources, including legitimate complaints against user-generated content sites, false positives and malicious SEO attacks.
However, the impact of such an attack would likely be small as Google appears to be targeting sites with a very large number of DMCA notices. A handful of notices likely won’t have much impact at all though, obviously, this is yet to be known for certain.
Also, though negative SEO attacks are common, there are more effective ways to hurt someone’s search engine ranking without the legal risk of filing a knowingly false DMCA notice. The fears are understandable, but from a practical standpoint they are likely misplaced.
Though I don’t doubt some will try to abuse the system, it will likely not be widespread or very effective.
The main things legitimate site owners should be doing now are adding a DMCA agentif they accept content from third parties (as well as putting that information clearly on their site) and signing up for Google Webmaster Tools to be alerted to any notices that are filed against them and be prepared to file counter-notices as needed.
In short, make yourself the front line of defense for copyright issues and be alert to what Google is seeing with your site. However, these are both things you should be doing anyway.
Changing Your DMCA Process
Many people are going to wonder if they should consider changing their DMCA process in response to this. I’ve been adamant over the years about using Google only as a last resort for a variety of reasons but this penalty may entice some to try it earlier on.
However, the reasons I gave for waiting on Google still make sense. It’s still better to get an infringing site shut down than to simply remove it from the search. Though Google is faster and more responsive than it once was and this new penalty gives DMCA notices to it more weight, the problem is that one notice isn’t likely to trigger any kind of penalty.
In short, if you’re just reporting a few URLs on a site, there’s no reason to believe that Google is going to penalize it in any meaningful way. In short, not much changes outside of sites with a very large number of notices.
The main thing this move does is give extra weight to Google DMCA notices that are sent against sites that already have a lot of other notices filed against them, in particular uncooperative sites that don’t remove infringing content when asked.
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