Amidst a flurry of congressional hearings and treaty negotiations, it is important to remember that statistics often tell half of the story. As I catch up on recent U.S. House subcommittee hearings, I continue to marvel at how often both committee members and witnesses conflate a total number of takedown notices with actual cases of infringement. This is not a new problem; the “Chilling Effect” is a well-documented (pdf) result of widespread abuse of Section 512 takedown notices. In 2009, Google reported that over a third of DMCA takedown notices were invalid:
Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.
And that doesn’t even include YouTube or Blogger takedown statistics! The numbers aren’t much better today. Google’s latest Transparency Report shows over 27 million removal requests over the past three years, with nearly a million of those requests denied (requests cited as “improper” or “abusive”) in 2011 alone. Many rights holders will continue to point to takedown notice numbers as evidence of widespread infringement, but this simply bolsters a landscape in which everybody is guilty until proven innocent of violating copyright.