From just a few thousand flagged URLs per week the number of DMCA takedown notices Netflix sent to Google skyrocketed to over a million recently. The reason for this increase wasn't clear initially but Google now believes that it's dealing with a Netflix impostor, which could be a pirate site trying to downrank the competition.
Earlier this month we reported on an interesting trend. Suddenly, the number of DMCA takedown notices sent by Netflix to Google shot through the roof.
As a possible explanation, we suggested an increase in enforcement following the surge of piracy during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there were also some signs that hinted towards possible abuse by a third party.
After our publication, the number of ‘Netflix’ DMCA notices sent to Google only increased. Two weeks ago the streaming platform reportedly flagged 1.2 million pirate URLs in a month, a sharp contrast to the few thousand it filed a few weeks earlier.
Google Takes Action
At the same time, however, Google started to pick up the issue as well. Where all reported pirate links sent by “Netflix” were previously removed, the search engine has now started to reject more and more requests.
In fact, Google’s Transparency Report is actively flagging several Netflix notices as abusive. While they do contain links to pirated material, Google believes they were sent by impostors.
“We believe that an impostor or someone else abusing the process submitted this request. We report it here for the sake of completeness and to provide a view into one kind of abuse of the DMCA process,” Google writes.
The notices that are flagged show the same fishy characteristics we highlighted in our earlier article. They generate separate ‘reporting organization’ listings in Google’s transparency report, submit long lists of URLs from the same domains, and often identify content that’s not owned by Netflix.
Also, the message that comes with these notices isn’t exactly proper English and reads: “All works on this website is copyrighted for netflix and this website not allowed to share this content.”
Competing Pirate Sites?
Who is responsible for these abusive notices remains a question. It seems very likely, however, that they’re being sent by the owner of a pirate streaming site, who wants links from competing sites removed from Google search.
Given that most reported sites are French we assume that the sender – pirate or not – is French-speaking as well.
It’s good to see that Google is now aware of the problem. However, this is not the first time this type of abuse has come up, so it would be good to know if it can be prevented going forward.
Google Is Taking Action
Google obviously doesn’t like this type of abuse, but in some cases it’s unavoidable. The company says its DMCA removals process aims to strike a balance between making it easy and efficient for rightsholders to report infringing content, and protecting free expression on the web.
“This system has been effective at significantly reducing access to infringing content via Search, but there are bad actors who attempt to abuse this system and limit access to information, which is something we actively fight against,” a Google spokesperson informed TorrentFreak.
“Over the years, we’ve continued to invest in new tools and establish processes like the Trusted Copyright Removal Program to tackle this issue at scale, while also developing new ways to counter abuse, which continues to evolve.”
As a result of these measures, Google rejects all requests it believes were sent by impostors. That said, many of the ‘dubious’ notices that were sent previously have not been flagged, or the URLs that were reported remain deindexed.
Google says that there are various types of abuse, some effecting legitimate content, and others target pirate content. While reported links form abusers are not always reinstated, affected sites can always submit counternotices. However, Google will not reinstate pirate URLs.