In Walled Culture the book (free digital versions available) there’s a chapter about the widely-used “notice and takedown” system, and its many abuses. One indicator of how bad things are, and how they are still getting worse, is the number of requests that Google receives to de-list links from its search results. Last year, Google had received more than 5.7 billion takedown requests over the past decade; now that figure has increased to over 6.7 billion in total. In other words, Google alone is receiving a billion takedown requests per year.
It’s hardly news that many of these requests are abusive, and often used to take down perfectly legal material. But a recent takedown request to Google is exceptional in this respect. As TorrentFreak explains, the complaint, made under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), apparently comes from the independent music label “Because Music”, and targets download and conversion software that allows YouTube material to be downloaded as a file.
The claim is that these circumvent YouTube security measures, and thus violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provisions. That in itself is pretty ridiculous, since YouTube doesn’t have any meaningful copy protection in place, as an important recent lawsuit pointed out. But TorrentFreak spotted that amongst the dozens of sites with links to such YouTube “streamripping” software, there is something rather different: Wikipedia’s “Comparison of YouTube downloaders” page.
The takedown request wants a Wikipedia page removed from Google’s search results because it talks about YouTube rippers, and offers a detailed comparison of them. Links to the software are incidental, appearing only at the foot of the page as references. The demand that Google should de-list links to the page in its search results is a thinly-disguised but dangerous attack on knowledge. The implicit message is nobody should be allowed to talk about, or even know about things that the copyright world disapproves of. It’s the logical conclusion of Big Content’s view that everything online should be subordinate to its pursuit of total control there.
Featured image by Lumen.
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