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A category page got a Notice of DMCA removal from Google Search, submitted through Lumen Databases, for a copyright infringing thumbnail. We have noticed this is becoming a pattern and category root pages are being targeted more often by DMCA agents.

The site in question has user sumbitted content and category pages consists of links with thumbnails pointing to about 50 posts.

Now the takedown was requested on the image file, post url and the category (root) page. Which means now the category (root) page has been omitted from Google search results.

https://example.com/images/post-1.jpg
https://example.com/funny/post-1.html
https://example.com/funny.html

The situation seems absurd, the equivalent of this could be youtube homepage being omitted from Google search because there's a copyright infringing thumbnail that made it into popular videos.

Needless to say the infriging material has been removed.

What can we do? What should be included in the counter notification for a successful reinstatement?

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First some background information, as you are noticing a pattern.

Generally speaking a "Notice of DMCA removal from Google Search" is submitted by a 3rd company that claims to be specialized in finding infringing content and submitting requests to remove it. Such notices and removals of links from Google search are not the initiative of Google or based on Google's own bots or spiders.

However, the companies that are specializing in collecting URL's to infringing content often simply have bots or spiders running over the internet, querying search engines with broad generally infringing terms, and note down every URL that has closely matching keywords (read content/text), and is not yet white listed by their system.

Thereafter, they automatically generate reports in Google's required format, and submit a removal request.

Google thereafter has a (human or automatic - not sure) process to verify the claims, and if in doubt, removes the links to the content without warning.

This in turn also affects your SEO rankings, as a large percentage of removed URL's vs. total URL's of your website, could mean you are a copyright infringing website.

How to counter notice

Google has a fairly simple Counter Notice system and it works well. Generally speaking when you submit a counter notice, which can be done by following the link from the e-mail where Google notifies you of a DMCA removal, Google follows up within 48 hours. In this form of Google, you fill out why you believe/claim the removal was in error. After submission of your counter notice, Google confirms that they received your request. This request is then sent to the company that asked for the removal of your URL. They always reply, as they are obliged to, if they don't reply within time (14 days), Google re-instates your URL within generally 10 days after that (this is from experience, not from what's claimed on the internet). If the company does reply, they could likely ask you for further information, ask for your legal contact, vice versa. In the end if your URL was requested to be removed in error, the company could white list your URL, this is up to the sole discretion of the company and the strength of your claim and your ability to prove that you will not likely have infringing content on your site.

Considerations

Your site has user generated content. This is something often red flagged by such companies and hard to white list. Do you have proven processes mechanisms that control user generated content before it appears on the web? This is perhaps one of the most important considerations for companies to allow white listing you. Do you have a good record just like YouTube has? Another important factor, before starting to compare yourself with YouTube.

I hope this answer helped, and good luck reinstating your URL's.

  • Thank you for your response. I don't think the takedown request was sumbitted by mistake. As the thumbnail was indeed at the category page, possibly a day, before getting pushed down to page 2. The question for us is, should we go about explaining that this is a general category page? Do they have the right to exclude our category page permanently from search results on top of the actual post (that has been already removed). And what can we do about this. I'm not comparing the site to YT. But rather gave an example how ridiculous is to exclude a root category page from Google search. – Kalle H. Väravas Dec 27 '17 at 15:47
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    Any page including the root category page or even the index page can be requested to be removed if it links to or presents any type of infringing content. You should not explain that this is a root category page, it makes no difference for them. You should explain that the infringing user generated content was removed, that generally the content is not infringing, that you have a dmca policy on your site to support copyright owners to remove infringing content and that you have a strong process to control user generated content before it appears on the site to prevent infringement. – rivredni Dec 27 '17 at 16:05
  • Also don't wait to long before submitting a counter notification. – rivredni Dec 27 '17 at 16:10
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    Pagination implies that bottom line you are on the same page, dynamically showing different content, and likely if they requested removal of a page with infringing content, this was the page indeed containing the content. What matters to you is getting it reinstated. One way is by either by convincing them that the content was non infringing and nevertheless removed, a second way is to convince them with all previously mentioned ideas and also get yourself white listed by that, a last resort is to simply change the hard URL of your root category, this will do the trick. – rivredni Dec 27 '17 at 17:12
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    " Do they have the right to exclude our category page permanently..." Google is a private company, they can do anything they like. They have no obligation or responsibility to anyone. – Steve Dec 27 '17 at 19:27

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