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The Rambler by Graham Henderson: Still Searching for Results in Google’s Wasteland of Illegal Sites and Takedown Notices

Graham_headphones3Blog ThumbnailThe Rambler is a column by Graham Henderson, President of Music Canada. Graham writes from time to time about developments in the music industry, new trends or just about music! Let’s face it, Graham has been around for a long time and has a lot to ramble on about.

As readers will know Google announced in August that they were going to update to their search algorithm in an effort to push pirate sites down in rankings. While it sounded like a good thing I decided to periodically undertake a reality check. My early tests suggested that nothing had actually happened – there were no change in the rankings. It was starting to feel like Google has just made another empty promise to help creators. Later I blogged how Google let Grooveshark back into their App Store – a decision which seemed incomprehensible given their publicly stated desire to enhance the results for legal music sources. Then there came Google’s promise to remove pirate sites from Autocomplete returns; a promise that was also shown to be more talk than action.

So I took a moment to see how Canada’s Carly Rae Jepsen is faring a few weeks on. Where are the legal sites; is it easy to find legal sources for music? Well, you can see the mountains of DMCA take-down notices that have accumulated. By the second page, about half the returns are takedown notices. Is this Google’s way of helping?


Google’s Transparency Report gives a glimpse into the problem – over 7.5 Million takedown notices in the past month. Here you will find the Vancouver-based isoHunt, ranked at #5 for most take-downs received – an ignominious distinction. Now, as an example, here is one of the DMCA notices sent by our British colleagues, the BPI. You can see they sent takedown notices to 20 sites on behalf of Interscope.

It is interesting to see how Google has chosen to handle these notices. Chilling Effects is a website that archives these takedown notices. Ellen Seidler has previously described this as a “clearly an ill-conceived attempt to intimidate those whose rights have actually been infringed.” A quick look at the sites that BPI was targeting shows that they clearly are not legitimate outlets – they are pirate organizations who distribute Jepsen’s work for their own profit.

CarlyRaeTakedownsUnfortunately the legitimate retailers are still hidden behind pages of pirate sites, plus the DMCA takedown links. Anyone interested in acquiring music legitimately has to wade through a wasteland of illegal sites and takedown notices. It is patently ridiculous. I would again compare the situation to that of someone interested in buying a Black and Decker toaster.


Buyers are sent straight to a plethora of legal sites. Wouldn’t the web be a better place for artists, consumers, and digital entrepreneurs if search engines promoted legitimate sites instead of leaving them behind in the pirate site/takedown notice wasteland?

So, ten weeks in…Google’s promise to “help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily” has turned out to be as empty as we thought it was at the outset.

Graham Henderson is the President of Music Canada. He also writes on an eclectic range of topics on his personal blog at

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