As the dominant force in the search engine market, Google holds lots of influence on what happens online. For better or for worse, Google has shown a willingness to use that influence for causes that might only tangentially be related to its business, and are more closely aligned with the public good.
One of the ways that Google has used its power online is to combat piracy and copyright violations by using one of its search ranking penalties. The company does have a business motivation for taking on the challenge: Not only are websites that violate copyrights repeatedly generally sites of disrepute, but if Google didn’t take action against them, they might find themselves on the hook for copyright liability, as well, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Google’s Piracy Penalty
Since 2012, Google has dealt with sites that host copyrighted material with the aptly named Pirate Penalty. Before that date, Google had simply complied with the DMCA’s takedown laws, which required internet service providers, like Google, to remove online material that infringed on a copyright soon after they had received a valid takedown notice. But copyright holders weren’t satisfied with simply removing infringing material. They wanted blood, and Google gave it to them with the Pirate Penalty.
Now, when a copyright holder claims infringement by submitting a DMCA Takedown Notice to Google, the offending material not only gets scrubbed from the internet, but the notice also gets logged, and points start to accrue against the host website. The more points it scores, the more its search ranking will plummet under the Pirate Penalty.
Enter: The Problem of DMCA Abuse
If you’re a copyright attorney, you’re probably already building up a whopping headache from this news. DMCA Takedown Notices are notoriously abused. Copyright holders often contract out the task of enforcing their copyrights online to companies “specializing” in it. These companies shoot first, and don’t ask questions later. After all, under the DMCA, they don’t have to.
Perhaps even more distressing for your law firm is the fact that, back in 2009, Google found that 57% of the DMCA Takedown Notices that it had received were sent by businesses, and targeted the websites of businesses they were competing against.
How to Fight Allegations of Copyright Abuse and Avoid a Penalty
Unfortunately, DMCA abuse is rampant precisely because there is little that can be done to defend against it. When it comes to avoiding a Google Pirate Penalty, only “valid” DMCA Takedown Notices rack up points against your website. However, the only way to make a Notice “invalid” is to contest it with a counter-notice, which can be tricky and expensive to put together, and are an invitation to further litigation.
How Your Firm Can Avoid a Penalty for Copyright Infringement
The sites that deal with DMCA Takedown Notices on a regular basis are torrents and streaming sites. However, all it takes for your law firm to stumble into the fray is by posting the wrong photo in your legal blog, or not attributing it correctly. This is just another reason to let the professional law blog writers at Myers Freelance handle your firm’s legal blog.