Google announced that complaints regarding copyright infringement using the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) process will now negatively impact web site rankings. All of the major search engines have a process for filing requests to remove pages that violate copyrights from search results. This is called a DMCA Takedown Notice. In the past, Google just removed the web page from their search results, but the new change will factor the number of complaints into a web site’s overall rankings.
Google posted a notice on their Search Blog. In the post they mentioned that they received more than 4.3 million copyright removal requests in the last 30 days, which is more than they received in all of 2009. The staggering number should not be any surprise because it is one way of sorting out suspected duplicate content problems related to Google’s Panda updates that are a result of content thieves stealing articles. In other words, Google very likely caused the panic situation that deluged them with requests.
A legitimate site owner’s first reaction might be, “Great! I can now get back at the guys who have been stealing my articles.” Not so fast. There is a caveat in this change. Yeah, you can file DMCA complaints and get Google to remove a web page containing your stolen content, but the bad guys can just as easily file the same complaints against your site. In fact, they can deluge your site with complaints about copyright infringement issues.
The Problems With Google’s New Change
The main issue is that Google openly states that they are not a court of law and they will not attempt to determine who is correct in a dispute or if the page reported does actually violate copyright law. That means that someone who has stolen your content can file complaints against your site and claim that you stole their content. That opens the door for a Negative SEO attack that can ruin a site’s rankings.
The other issue is that there is no mechanism to notify a web site owner when a DMCA complaint has been filed against their web site. That means that hundreds of DMCA Takedown Notices can be filed against a site and the site owner may never be aware of it. It may be safe to assume that Google will post notices in a related Webmaster Tools account, but they have not stated that and very few site owners have Webmaster Tools accounts associated with their sites.
Google does state that they will continue to be transparent about copyright removals, but that is almost a delusional statement because they have no mechanism to communicate with the overwhelming majority of web site owners accused of copyright infringement and they have not been transparent thus far.