Google's yearly transparency report is available, and right away, they make one thing perfectly clear: They get and respond to over 1 million takedown requests on a monthly basis.
Not only do they respond, but they apparently act. According to one of their many FAQs, Google removed "97% of search results specified in requests that we received between July and December 2011." That means if your search result takedown request is legitimate--which, according to Google's response rate, most are--Google will work in favor of the copyright that the takedown is trying to protect.
While the takedown request data itself is interesting, a deeper look at what companies are responsible for them and what areas they come from on a global basis is even more so. First, the general request information screenshot:
As you can see, takedown requests are an active part of a Google Engineer's life. A tweet from Matt Cutts confirms as much:
http://t.co/KNUtsyqN Google gets >250K requests each week.
As for the agencies that use takedown requests the most, it reads like a who's who of copyright protection organizations:
The following screenshot is for the top reporting organizations for the past month, and as you can see, the leader in terms of takedown requests is an agency called Marketly llc. According to their profile page, Marketly issues over 30,000 URL takedown requests a week, most, if not all of them for the Microsoft Corporation. It's hard not to wonder how many "free" copies of Microsoft Office they've come across. Google also has a map of where these takedown requests initiate from, and let's just say, our British friends--mainly BPI, aka, the British Recorded Music Industry--have been incredibly busy:
So what does all this data mean? That search engines are not the best tool to use when looking to fileshare? Well, there's definitely that, but it also means there are some diligent companies out there working hard to prevent this kind of web use. Of course, considering just how widespread piracy is, it seems as if their efforts are akin to using a peashooter to try and stop a herd of rampaging elephants.
That being said, for those government officials and entertainment industry leaders who accuse Google of supporting piracy because of their anti-SOPA stance, here's Google's position plain English, courtesy of their blog post discussing their transparency report:
Fighting online piracy is very important, and we don’t want our search results to direct people to materials that violate copyright laws. So we’ve always responded to copyright removal requests that meet the standards set out in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). At the same time, we want to be transparent about the process so that users and researchers alike understand what kinds of materials have been removed from our search results and why. To promote that transparency, we have long shared copies of copyright removal requests with Chilling Effects, a nonprofit organization that collects these notices from Internet users and companies. We also include a notice in our search results when items have been removed in response to copyright removal requests.
So the next time you hear a grandstanding politician say something like "Google profits from piracy and the advertising pirates do," be sure to smack them in the mouth. Actually, no. Don't get thrown in jail due to someone else's ignorance. Just keep the above blockquote in mind, and hell, maybe even send it to the offending party, along with the transparency report.