While Torrent Freak laments the fact that Google has already processed more than 100 million DMCA takedown notices this year, don’t shed any tears for the company. The massive number of takedowns is simply a sign that the internet giant’s nefarious business model (dependent on content theft) continues to chug merrily along. Per Torrent Freak:
A few days ago Google received its 100 millionth takedown request of 2015. The counter is currently at 103,218,572, which means yet another record. Last year it took a month longer to reach the same milestone.
If the numbers go up at the same rate throughout the year, Google will process half a billion allegedly infringing links during 2015.
In looking at these figures it’s important to remember that the vast majority of these takedowns are automated so it’s not as if thousands of Google worker bees are laboriously checking and removing infringing content from Google hosted sites. Operating takedown services (via online DMCA templates, content ID, and “trusted submitter” programs) is simply the cost of running a business that routinely allows (and encourages) users to upload and monetize infringing movies and music.
One should also remember that Google doesn’t really remove pirate links from its search engine, it just re-links to its partner, the Chilling Effects database so that users can still easily find the pirated movies, music, books, etc.
YouTube turns to licensing content to bolster its business model against increasing competition
Takedowns aside, it’s worth noting that Google’s YouTube nefarious business model is showing signs of decay. The Wall Street Journal recently reported that YouTube failed (again) to actually make a profit for Google despite revenues that grew by more than a billion dollars from 2103 to 2014 (3 billion to 4).
Google/YouTube is under increasing threat from other social media companies that promise content creators more favorable revenue deals for licensed content. According to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by by Shalini Ramachandran and Mike Shields:
Technology companies including Facebook Inc., Snapchat and streaming-startup Vessel are promising large TV-channel owners better terms for their video programming than Google Inc.’s YouTube, hoping to capitalize on mounting frustration with the Web giant in the entertainment industry.
The challengers to YouTube have been in talks with programming suppliers such asViacom Inc.,Time Warner Inc.,Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal and 21st Century Fox.They are all promising more generous revenue-sharing deals than YouTube, which lets content creators keep 55% of ad revenue, people familiar with the discussions say.
It’s a sweet irony that in order for Google/YouTube to remain at the top of its game its innovators have to turn to the very thing the company has spent the past ten years ignoring–licensing creative content. According to Variety, feeling the heat from competitors, Google has been forced to pony up to produce original programs in order to compete:
YouTube, too, is plowing bucks back into its most popular talent — a bid to keep its top creators from jumping to Vessel, Vimeo or others. With the YouTube Originals initiative, the Google subsidiary is paying its biggest stars to produce family and comedy programming, whether scripted or unscripted. That content is slated to debut in exclusive windows by the end of 2015.
Note the emphasis on “exclusive.” Of course, in order for (licensed) content to remain exclusive the sharing of unauthorized copies, i.e. piracy, will have to be squelched, otherwise the content quickly becomes non-exclusive, right?
How many DMCA notices Google will be sending to others when its own “original” content gets pirated?
One has to wonder how many new employees will Google have to hire to protect its “exclusive” content from online thieves? Will the anti-copyright apologists at Google ever eat crow and acknowledge that protecting creators’ work from online theft is important to sustaining one’s bottom line? If Google wants to succeed as a producer of content it’s likely that it will be sending a few DMCA notices of its own.
Meanwhile the DMCA safe harbor provision is out of date and due for a major overhaul
No matter how Google/YouTube’s business evolves moving forward, news of 100 million takedowns should serve as a (further) wakeup call for lawmakers to revisit the worn out “safe harbor” provision of the DMCA. Safe harbor was intended to protect online innovation, but instead has become a legal loophole routinely exploited by companies like Google to game the system at the expense of creators.
As I noted in my blog post, “Everyone Hates the DMCA,” safe harbor’s sell-by date is long past:
…this oft-abused language has served to shelter digital thieves at the expense of rights holders. “Safe Harbor” has enabled the growth of a criminal cancer and it’s a cancer–that as of now–cannot be beaten, only kept (marginally) at bay.
Where else, aside from the internet, is it OK to build a business around theft? If anything Google’s 100 million takedowns is a stark sign that its failed to effectively safeguard the rights of content creators.
While most creators have better things to do (like making more music or films), unless they act, Google and its partners in crime are free to monetize the stolen content. Basically it’s fill up the piggy bank until someone complains.
So, don’t feel sorry for Google’s 100 million takedowns–feel sorry for all those who continue to be ripped off by its innovative business model. As Google begins to view its business from the other side of the creative fence perhaps it will develop some innovations to better protect rightsholders. That would be a true, and welcome, innovation.