Here is what one effect of copyright law looks like online:
That's the little notice that appears at the bottom of the first page of Google's search results for the phrase "microsoft office free download." If you keep paging through Google's results, by page 20 or so you'll have just as many notices of content removal as you will have actual content. That's because these links pointed to illegal copies of Microsoft's proprietary software, which Microsoft requested be removed from Google Search.
Just how many requests Google receives to remove links from its search results is detailed in the company's new report, and the numbers are staggering. Google says that it is no longer unusual to receive more than 250,000 take-down requests in a single week -- more requests than it received in all of 2009. In the past month alone, copyright owners and the companies that represent them made 1.2 million requests to delete a result from Search.
By far the copyright owner with the biggest, most aggressive anti-copyright-infringement arm is Microsoft, which has notified Google of more than half a million URLs containing pirated Microsoft content in the past month. Of the million of requests Google received, the majority come from just a handful of reporting organizations -- roughly 20, according to Fred von Lohmann, Google's Senior Copyright Counsel. Because of the increasing volume, Google has a growing team of staff devoted to handling requests and deleting the offending search results. It's a "pretty serious resource commitment," said von Lohmann. Parts of the process are automated -- as any process dealing with that volume of tasks would need to be -- but von Lohmann says that humans do ensure that the requests aren't in error and that the content is actually in violation of a copyright.