The entertainment industries have gone head to head with Google over the past years, demanding tougher anti-piracy measures from the search engine.
Ideally, several industry groups would like Google to completely remove pirate sites from its search results. In addition, they argue that the search engine should boost the rankings of legal services and sites that allow the public to find legal content.
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JustWatch is one of these legal options. While it doesn’t offer any content itself, it provides a great search tool for people who want to find legal entertainment on dozens of services. As such, it is widely recommended by industry insiders.
When Fox alerts ISPs and hosting companies of alleged pirates, for example, it specifically recommends JustWatch as a good starting point.
“We encourage you to refer your account holder to the website justwatch.com where they will find an array of legal choices,” Fox notes.
Given this reputation, it’s rather unfortunate that copyright holders repeatedly ask Google to remove JustWatch URLs from its search engine. While these requests are likely made in error, the result is that these companies make it harder for people to find legal alternatives.
Take this copyright infringement notice from anime producer Korean Broadcasting System (KBS) for example. The takedown request, directed at Google, lists dozens of infringing URLs, as well as two from JustWatch.
While KBS probably identified these URLs by mistake, thinking that JustWatch is a pirate site, Google did in fact take action. As a result, the site’s official page of “The King’s Face” is no longer showing up in the search results.
“In response to a complaint that we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at LumenDatabase.org,” Google explains.
This isn’t an isolated incident either. Since the start of this year, Google has been asked to remove more than a hundred JustWatch URLs. These notices are attributed to a variety of rightsholders, including KBS, CJ, AMC Networks, Zee Entertainment, and Toei Animation.
In the example given earlier, as well as several other instances, the links have been removed. However, Google also managed to prevent some takedowns, including this one AMC sent for “Fear The Walking Dead.”
What’s clear, however, is that many JustWatch links are no longer appearing in Google’s search results. While this is unlikely to be intentional, it is rather unfortunate, especially since rightsholders themselves have asked Google to promote such services.
Perhaps it’s a good idea to prevent these clear errors, before demanding Google to “do more”?