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This is a shortened and slightly altered English version of a German blog post at netzpolitik.org.

The video “Gangnam Style” by the Korean rapper Psy is now the most-watched YouTube clip ever with about 870 million views and counting. And while the official version is blocked in the German YouTube version due to the ongoing copyright struggle between YouTube and the German collecting society GEMA (see “Cracks in the Content Coalition“), there are some unblocked copies available at YouTube, as well; besides, browser extensions such as YouTube Unblocker allow watching the original version even in Germany.

The viral success of Gangnam Style not only made Psy world-famous but had also further consequences, as is documented on the Wikipedia page on the “Gangnam Style phenomenon“:

In 2012, the South Korean government announced that “Gangnam Style” had brought in $13.4 million to the country’s audio sector. […] The British multinational grocery and retailer Tesco reported that its total sales of Korean food had more than doubled as a result of the popularity of “Gangnam Style”.

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In the series “algorithm regulation”, we discuss the implications of the growing importance of technological algorithms as a means of regulation in the digital realm. 

Earlier this year, Google revealed that it routinely removes search results that link to material allegedly infringing copyrights, thereby following removal requests of copyright holders (see  “New Layer of Copyright Enforcement: Search“). Since this announcement, the number of removed search results per month has quadrupeld (see Figure below).

Yesterday, Google announced that in addition to removing search results it is going to also adapt its ranking algorithm:

Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.

As in discussed in the first entry of this series on algorithm regulation, the technological layer of regulation is becoming increasingly important for copyright enforcement. But Google’s move to tinker with its most precious asset, the search algorithm, also evidences that technological regulation of this kind may directly result from stakeholder negotiations.

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Recently Google announced an extension to its “Transparency Report“, which now also includes a section on requests to remove search results that link to material that allegedly infringes copyrights. Last month, Google processed 1,294,762 copyright removal requests by 1,109 reporting organizations, representing 1,325 copyright owners. The Figure below illustrates how the number of requests has increased between July 2011 to mid May 2012.

The growing number of removal requests points to the relevance of search technology as a means for copyright enforcement. Since for many Internet users what is not found by Google appears to be non-existent, removing search results from Google’s results lists is obviously a powerful tool for private copyright enforcement. However, several downsides are connected with such private copyright enforcement practices:

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The Book

Governance across borders: transnational fields and transversal themes. Leonhard Dobusch, Philip Mader and Sigrid Quack (eds.), 2013, epubli publishers.
December 2017
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