Long the goto site for tracking DMCA takedown notices, ChillingEffects.org dismayed many techies last week when it announced that it was removing itself from Google.
Ironically enough, complaints from copyright holders are at the base of this unprecedented display of self-censorship. Since Chilling Effects has partnered with Google to publish all takedown notices Google receives, its pages contain hundreds of millions of non-linked URLs to infringing material. Copyright holders are not happy with these pages. Previously, Copyright Alliance CEO Sandra Aistars described the activities of the Chilling Effects projects as “repugnant.”
As a result of the increased criticisms Chilling Effects has now decided to hide its content from search engines, making it harder to find.
“After much internal discussion the Chilling Effects project recently made the decision to remove the site’s notice pages from search engines,” Berkman Center project coordinator Adam Holland informs TF.
“Our recent relaunch of the site has brought it a lot more attention, and as a result, we’re currently thinking through ways to better balance making this information available for valuable study, research, and journalism, while still addressing the concerns of people whose information appears in the database.”
This is terrible news for anyone who uses the Chilling Effects site for research. As great as that site is, its internal search engine is frankly unusable. I usually search that site via Google, using the “site” search term to limit results.
If I can’t use Google in the future then Chilling Effects will be almost useless for research. It might as well stop posting the DMCA notices for all the good they will do to shine a light on those who misuse the process.
Luckily for us, it now looks like this was a mistake. Wendy Seltzler tweeted yesterday that:
@flohmann that was an implementation mistake. It was never intended to remove the whole domain — and probably should all be reversed
— Wendy Seltzer (@wseltzer) January 12, 2015
The site is still missing from Google’s search results, but with luck it should be returning at some point.