This week anti-piracy company Rivendell made history by reporting its 500 millionth infringing URL to Google. Speaking with TorrentFreak, the founder of Rivendell and sister company LeakID says that his team works closely with Google and finds the search giant very cooperative and helpful. He credits pirates for being resourceful but loves finding ways to "outsmart" them.
DMCA notices or their equivalents can be filed against websites, hosts, ISPs and other services almost anywhere in the world, with the majority of entities taking some action in response.
At Google, for example, the company receives DMCA notices requesting that allegedly-infringing URLs are delisted from search results and at this company alone, the scale is astonishing. At the time of writing, Google has processed requests to remove 4.43 billion URLs from its indexes across 2.77 million domains. These were filed by more than 196,100 copyright holders and 186,100 reporting organizations, which includes anti-piracy groups.
This week, one of those anti-piracy groups reached a historic milestone. French anti-piracy group Rivendell sent its 500 millionth URL delisting request to Google, breaking the half-a-billion barrier for a single reporting entity for the first time.
Hervé Lemaire is the owner of Rivendell’s sister company LeakID, a company he formed in 2006 after he left EMI/Virgin as Head of Digital. Speaking with TorrentFreak this week, he explained that Rivendell was launched in 2013 with a key focus to prevent unlicensed content appearing in Google’s indexes.
Lemaire didn’t provide specific details on Rivendell’s top clients but a cursory view of Google’s report shows many familiar names from the world of entertainment, including what recently appears to be a strong focus on sports content owned by the Premier League and Italy’s Serie A.
In common with all anti-piracy companies, Rivendell isn’t keen to give away its secrets. Lemaire did confirm however that patroling Google’s indexes is only part of the puzzle and that scanning piracy platforms to identify infringing material quickly plays a big part.
When it comes to dealing with Google itself, Lemaire bucks the trend by complimenting (rather than criticizing) the company for its anti-piracy work.
“We work closely with the Google team and we are very happy with them,” he told TF. “They are very cooperative and when we have a problem with a link we always have an answer and a solution from them.”
Google doesn’t impose any reporting limits on Rivendell either, with Lemaire noting that all Google wants is to work with “serious companies doing a serious job.”
While the sending of more than half-a-billion URL reports is certainly remarkable, it’s worth breaking down what type of action was taken in response to them. The image below shows what action Google took, with just under three-quarters of URL requests resulting in immediate removal.
That raises the question of why 25% of Rivendell’s URL reports failed to result in content being removed.
The red category – almost 20% – indicates content that didn’t actually exist in Google’s indexes at the time it was detected by Rivendell. The company suggests that because it acts so quickly, it can detect content before it appears in Google’s results.
“If you search the links only on Google, you have nothing to do with the protection of content,” Lemaire says.
“We do not expect Google to show us the pirated links [immediately]. To be effective we must go to where content is found before it appears on the search engine, especially for live content.”
This type of proactive takedown isn’t a problem for Google. As previously revealed, the company is happy to receive the URLs for content it hasn’t yet indexed for action when they do eventually appear.
“We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled,” Google copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson previously explained.
“We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results.”
Lemaire also has straightforward explanations for the other categories too. Requests labeled as ‘duplicate’ by Google have already been targeted by other anti-piracy companies while the 1% marked “No Action” can be the result of several issues including a lack of evidence, a homepage delisting request, hidden content, or even a ‘fake’ pirate website.
The big question, however, is whether all of these delisting efforts actually have any serious impact on the volumes of pirated content being consumed. Lemaire is clear: “It works.”
“For live events like football we were the first to work on removing links before, during and after matches. This is why several European leagues trust us in particular on this subject,” he says.
“In general, the removal of illegal links allows legal offers to occupy the top places in search results. There are still improvements to be made regarding the pagerank of illegal sites, however.”
Lemaire is brief when questioned on what measures are taken to avoid erroneous takedowns, stating that all domains are validated before they are notified to Google. Finally, he also appears to recognize the resourcefulness of his adversaries but says that countering them is enjoyable.
“Pirates are not stupid and are constantly finding new solutions. It’s up to us to work to outsmart them .. we love it,” he concludes.