Google this week received a somewhat rare accolade from a privacy rights group for publishing a detailed report on all the copyright related content removal requests it has received over the past year.

The company on Thursday released its copyright Transparency Report, summarizing all requests it has received since July 2011 to remove search results that link to allegedly infringing material. The company maintains a similar list on government requests for URL removals.

The report shows that Google received a total of 1,255,402 URL removal requests via its web form in the last one month alone. The number does not include removal requests made via other channels such as faxes and written letter. It also does not include requests to remove content from other Google properties such as YouTube and Blogger.

The removal requests affected a total of more than 24,300 domains and were put in by a total of 2400 copyright owners or their representatives.

Google said it complied with 97% of the search removal requests it received between July and December last year. On average, the company complied with the takedown requests in 10 hours or less, it said.

Somewhat surprisingly, the organization associated with the most copyright removal requests was not a music label but Microsoft Corp. More than 530,000 of the URLs that were the subject of removal requests linked to Microsoft content. Between July 2011 and now, Microsoft or its representatives have asked Google to remove over 2.5 million URLs from its search engine results at a median of 48,700 URLs per week.

The second highest requester is NBCUniversal, which trails far behind Microsoft in the number of URLs it has request Google block. Between July 2011 and today, NBCUniversal asked Google to remove just more than 1 million URLs, or less than half of the number requested by Microsoft.

In contrast, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which is often perceived as being the biggest copyright cop on the Internet, asked for a mere 416,000 URLs to be blocked. On average, the RIAA or its agents put in about six URL removal requests per week compared to Microsoft's 169 requests per week.

The most targeted domains of such requests were filestub.com, torrentz.eu, 4sharesd.com and zippshare.com.

In the 3% of cases where Google did not remove URLs, it was because the removal requests were inaccurate or intentionally abusive, Google noted. As examples it pointed to a request by a major U.S. movie studio that requested the removal of the IMDb page for a movie released by the studio, and another instance where the representative of a movie studio asked for the removal of a movie review from a newspaper's website.

Google's copyright transparency report is important because it sheds light about the behavior of copyright holders and the organizations representing them, the Electronic Frontier Foundation said in a blog post Thursday.

"Given its importance as a starting point for many users, removal from Google's index can have devastating consequences on speech," EFF activist Parker Higgins wrote in the post. "As with [Google's] government transparency reports, reporting on copyright notices can expose bad practices and allow people to assign blame where it belongs: with the people abusing the system.

The 3% of cases where Google refused to comply with takedown requests represents a large number in absolute terms, Higgins said. Each of those, are instances of legitimate speech that would have otherwise been shut down, he said. "Google deserves to be commended for that behavior."

Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed. His e-mail address is [email protected].

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