Google is removing URLs from its search function, but before anyone cries foul, it's letting people know about it.
The tech giant released a new edition of its Transparency Report today, which shows who is requesting URLs be taken down, the copyright owners, and all the targeted domains since July 2011. Everything that's being deleted is allegedly copyrighted or pirated material -- mostly from software and entertainment companies.
Google has been releasing the Transparency Report for the last two years, but before today the only available information was government requests to remove content and disruptions in the search engine's traffic patterns. There wasn't a focus on piracy and copyright issues.
The new stats released today are telling. Of the millions of requests, Microsoft is the No. 1 complainer of copyright infringement, asking that a total of 2,544,209 URLs be removed. Coming in behind Microsoft are NBCUniversal, RIAA, BPI (British Recorded Music Industry), and Elegant Angel pornographic film studio. Google said it granted 97 percent of all requests between July and December 2011.
"As you can see from the report, the number of requests has been increasing rapidly," Google's senior copyright counsel Fred von Lohmann said in a blog post today. "These days it's not unusual for us to receive more than 250,000 requests each week, which is more than what copyright owners asked us to remove in all of 2009. In the past month alone, we received about 1.2 million requests made on behalf of more than 1,000 copyright owners to remove search results."
Google noted that requests for products other than Google Search, such as YouTube or Blogger, are not included in the stats. It also said that it plans to update the numbers everyday, include a removal notice in the search results, and share all copies of copyright removal requests with Chilling Effects -- a nonprofit organization that collects these types of notices. If a URL has been removed, Google said the user responsible can submit a counter-notice if they believe the removal request was incorrect.
"We're starting with search because we remove more results in response to copyright removal notices than for any other reason," von Lohmann wrote. "As policymakers and Internet users around the world consider the pros and cons of different proposals to address the problem of online copyright infringement, we hope this data will contribute to the discussion."
"Fighting online piracy is very important, and we don't want our search results to direct people to materials that violate copyright laws," von Lohmann wrote. "At the same time, we want to be transparent about the process so that users and researchers alike understand what kinds of materials have been removed from our search results and why."