Like many copyright holders, Microsoft routinely asks Google to remove links from its search engine that contain copyrighted material. But last week, the software corporation mistakenly asked Google to remove its own web pages from search results.
Microsoft recently filed a Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request against Microsoft.com, accusing its own website of copyright infringement, TorrentFreak first reported.
LeakID, a company working on behalf of Microsoft, submitted the request, which asked to remove links to Microsoft’s store, support pages and product descriptions from search results. Despite the two companies’ long-standing rivalry, Google noticed the mistake and kept the pages up.
But Microsoft has made mistakes in its takedown requests before, accusing credible and original websites of copyright infringement. TorrentFreak previously reported that Microsoft submitted nearly 5 million takedown requests in a one-year period.
Since these requests are often automated and are not always checked for accuracy, erroneous submissions often go through, potentially harming less prominent websites that rely on Google to garner page views.
Last year, the software giant’s automated software mistakenly targeted CNN, Wikipedia, Buzzfeed, TechCrunch, The Huffington Post, BBC, The Washington Post, Rotten Tomatoes, Real Clear Politics, AMC Theaters and numerous federal government websites. The National Institutes of Health, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services were among those targeted by the software corporation. Microsoft claimed that these sites had distributed its Windows 8 Beta without authorization.
Prior to that incident, Microsoft asked Google to remove Spotify and Bing from its search results. Although most of these websites were prominent enough to remain unaffected by the requests, AMC Theaters and Real Clear Politics temporarily disappeared from Google in mid-2012.
Websites that are not whitelisted are more likely to disappear as a result of takedown notices. In the past month alone, Google has received 13,829,857 DMCA requests from 1,924 reporting organizations. Microsoft is among the top five copyright owners that have made requests, reporting 769,470 URLs over the past four weeks.
“As soon as you take down one page another pops up in its place,” Mark Mulligan, a technology analyst at Midia Consulting, told BBC. “It’s like playing Whac-A-Mole.”
Between January and July, Google deleted more than 100 million links from its search results, which is double the number of links that the search engine erased last year. Only 3 percent of takedown requests are rejected.
In May 2012, TorrentFreak reported that some of the world’s largest music and movie companies mistakenly reported content that promoted their latest works. Warner Bros. asked Google to delist an official trailer to the movie “Wrath of the Titans,” as well as all content that referenced it, such as news articles, an IMDb page and a listing that helps people find theaters to watch the movie.
It is unclear if Warner Bros. suffered financial consequences from the mistake, but companies who mistakenly file a DCMA request against themselves or are the victim of one can file a counter-notice to ask Google to reinstate the website in search results.
Google has also blacklisted and banned more than 11 million websites that were registered through the co.cc subdomain, which it classified as a “freehost”. The subdomain belonged to a Korean company that provided free or cheap domains and had a high percentage of malware-hosting websites.
Although the removal of co.cc from Google search results may have eliminated some phishers and spammers from search results, it also eliminated bloggers who had done no wrong, but were simply looking for the cheapest platform to acquire a domain.
“Some blog owners who wish to continue to offer their blogs to the mainstream public have conveyed their frustration at not being given a just opportunity to cater to potential new readers who would now have great difficulty locating their blogs,” Tech Hamlet wrote in 2011. “To remedy this, many blog owners are expected to try to continue their efforts using different domains.”
Bloggers and small business owners who purchase their domains from more reputable providers will not likely see their websites banned, but could easily be at the end of a DMCA takedown request.
Although Google noticed Microsoft’s mistake and kept the rival company’s links in its search results, less prominent websites might not be so lucky, and could quickly disappear from the web in the daily flood of DMCA requests.