In recent years, Google has had to process an incredible number of takedown requests, aimed at ‘pirate’ sites in search results.
While most of these notices do indeed list links to copyright-infringing content, not all are.
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There are the obvious errors, where Wikipedia, Justice.gov, or NASA are targeted, for example. But even sites with a clear pirate stigma have pages that are not directly infringing.
Take The Pirate Bay’s homepage, which contains the iconic pirate ship logo, a search box, as well as some other links. However, there is no direct mention of copyright-infringing content that warrants a ‘takedown.’
That doesn’t prevent copyright holders and various reporting agencies from trying to remove it from Google though. Data provided by the Lumen team, which maintains an archive of all the DMCA notices Google search receives, shows that Pirate Bay’s homepage has been targeted dozens of times.
This year alone, at least 15 separate takedown notices ask Google to remove ThePirateBay.org from its index. Most of these are sent by the reporting agency Digimarc, on behalf of book publishers such as Penguin Random House, Kensington Publishing, and Recorded Books.
The most recent was sent just a few days ago, accusing TPB’s homepage of hosting or linking to an infringing copy of “Star Wars: The Original Radio Drama.” A few days earlier a similar notice accused the same page of linking to the French version of Stephen King’s The Running Man.
These notices also list other totally unrelated links which are hard to explain, as the image below shows. However, we won’t dwell on that here.
One of the takedown attempts
Over the years, The Pirate Bay’s homepage has been targeted more than 70 times. And even then we’re only counting the official domain names, ThePirateBay.org and ThePirateBay.se.
The oldest public notice we could find was sent by the American sports promotion company Zuffa. In January 2013 the company identified several infringing Pirate Bay links, but also added in the site’s homepage.
While there’s no shortage of reports, TPB’s homepage is still in Google’s index.
Since TPB’s homepage is not infringing, Google categorically refuses to remove it from its search results. While the site itself has been downranked, due to the high number of takedown requests Google receives for it, ThePirateBay.org remains listed.
Google did remove The Pirate Bay’s homepage in the past, by accident, but that was swiftly corrected.
“Google received a (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) take-down request that erroneously listed Thepiratebay.org, and as a result, this URL was accidentally removed from the Google search index,” Google said at the time.
“We are now correcting the removal, and you can expect to see Thepiratebay.org back in Google search results this afternoon,” the company added.