Viz Media Copyrights Alone Account for 5% of Google's URL Takedown Requests

posted on by Karen Ressler
A tour through Google's URL delisting lists

One of the tools available to copyright holders to combat piracy is the ability to send a request to Google to delist links from its search. The copyright holder — or or a third party — can submit a takedown notice for any URL that directs to content that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Google then reviews the request to determine if its a verifiably legitimate complaint or, for example, someone trying to get negative reviews of their business delisted.

According to Google's data, manga and anime publishing company Viz Media LLC currently ranks at #4 in terms of URL takedown requests sent to Google, trailing only member companies of the British, Mexican, and Brazilian recorded music industries. The company and third parties such as Remove Your Media have submitted 205,189,611 URL requests on behalf of Viz Media and Viz Europe. This is about 5% of the total.

Google provides a detailed breakdown of URL removal requests for each company. Viz Media's removal requests over time, for example, is pictured below. We also know that about 65% of the total requests ended with a URL removal, and 0.3% had no action taken. (The remaining URL requests were either duplicates or were already not in Google's index.)

Google lists domain names from takedown requests, but for more specifics there's the Lumen project from Harvard's Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society. An online database of takedown requests available to search. For example, a copyright complaint sent to Google from Remove Your Media on behalf of Viz in November 2018 targeted sites illegally reposting 76 manga and anime titles, including Naruto Shippūden and Rurouni Kenshin.

Of course, Viz Media isn't the only anime and manga copyright holder with requests to remove content. Here is a selection of some other companies and the total number of takedown requests sent on behalf of each, according to Google's data. You can search for yourself here.

There's no easy way to determine just how many of these requests are related to anime and manga. The Japanese publishers listed above don't exclusively publish manga, after all, and removals are often done on behalf of one of many licensors worldwide. French distributor Citel Vidéo, for example, has more than 43 million requests. And some titles may be under the umbrella of larger companies such as Warner Bros. (over 8 million requests), Sony Pictures Television (over 8 million requests), and Netflix (over 5 million requests).

Google may not act on a request if it doesn't have enough information, if the request is inaccurate, or if the supposed infringement is deemed fair use. But if it does, it allegedly notifies the webmasters of offending sites, and the webmasters are then given the opportunity to appeal.

Japan's major publishing companies — Kadokawa Shoten, Kodansha, Shogakukan, and Shueisha — have been pushing to address piracy, and in 2018 launched a "STOP! Piracy Edition" campaign, which offers a website with information about pirated manga. In response to such concerns, Japan's Agency of Cultural Affairs is proposing comprehensive reforms to the Japanese copyright law.

Japan's Content Overseas Distribution Association (CODA) has asserted to the Japanese government that, between September 2017 and February 2018, piracy inflicted an estimated amount of more than 400 billion yen (about US$3.72 billion) worth of damage to copyright holders in Japan.

(Note: Most companies are listed under multiple names and stylizations, for example "Viz Media LLC" and "Viz Media, LLC." The numbers above represent the total number of URL takedown requests across all the names found, and data has been adjusted accordingly.)

Source: Google Transparency Report via @ehanshi

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