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Yahoo, the DMCA, and Blackhat Techniques

Yahoo, the DMCA, and Blackhat Techniques by Chris Richardson

Apparently, through the use of a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) complaint, you can have sites thrown out of Yahoo’s search index. If you file a DMCA report against a site, Yahoo will remove the “offending” site from Yahoo Search altogether, leaving no trace of the site in its index.

In fact, Yahoo’s system is set-up in a way that site owners with complaints filed against them are not allowed to defend themselves. Once Yahoo receives a DMCA complaint against a site, they act. Brian Turner brought this information to light over at Platinax.co.uk in a revealing report that also indicated the Platinax web site was made a victim of Yahoo’s practice.

Before we proceed, it is important to understand that these DMCA measures are in place to combat the growing pest of stolen content. Many unscrupulous site owners will not hesitate to take content from other people if it will give them a search engine boost. The DMCA option was introduced to combat these users. It is also important to remember that Yahoo is not the only search engine that takes action when DMCA issues are brought to light. As pointed out by Jenstar on the SEW Forums, each of the big 3 have DMCA measures in place in case someone files a complaint:

Google
Yahoo
MSN

However, the thread also states that people who have complaints filed against them can counter the claim, which brings us back to Brian’s article. While it may be true Google and MSN will allow you to defend yourself against DMCA claims, Brian’s article indicates that Yahoo does not, at least in Platinax’s case (in fact, Google makes the claims known to the accused, whereas Yahoo does not).

Because of Platinax’s removal from Yahoo’s index due to a DMCA filing against the site, Brian believes DMCA complaints can be used as an effective blackhat search optimization technique. He also believes it’s a system that’s open to abuse, and if Yahoo treats all DMCA complaints like they did Platinax’s, perhaps he’s right.

Let’s say a heated competitor is garnering better search rankings in Yahoo than you are. A DMCA complaint of copyright infringement to Yahoo will most likely have them removed from Yahoo’s index altogether, whether they actually committed any copyright violations or not.

This is puts too much power in the hands of a complaint system. If Yahoo does not make known the reason a complaint was filed against someone and does not allow the accused an opportunity to defend themselves, then Turner is quite correct: Yahoo’s DMCA solution is very much open for abuse. Unfortunately, representatives from Yahoo apparently don’t really see it that way.

During Turner’s investigation as to why Platinax was removed from Yahoo’s index, he spoke with Tomi Poutanen, the International Search Business Development Director for Yahoo who told Turner that Yahoo does not feel any obligation to report DMCA complaints and that their current system was not in a position to be abused.

Turner also reveals that no DMCA complaint was filed against the site in either MSN or Google. Just Yahoo. Perhaps that shouldn’t make a difference because a complaint is a complaint. At the very least, however, Yahoo should’ve given Turner and Platinax an opportunity to defend themselves, something Google and presumably MSN Search allows.

With Yahoo’s current method of handling these complaints, their system is ripe for abuse under the guise of false complaints that could result in innocent site owners removed from Yahoo’s index for no reason, other than what motivated the filing to begin with.

Like Turner indicates, if this is how Yahoo handles these complaints, it certainly appears as if Yahoo is lacking fundamental protection against false accusations and bogus DMCA filings, making DMCA complaints an ideal blackhat tool to use against more successful competitors.

Of course, one would like to think that Yahoo would investigate such a claim before they acted, but that certainly didn’t appear to be the case with Platinax.

Thanks to Michael Nguyen for pointing Brian’s article out.

About the Author:
Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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Camilla Todd
Camilla Todd is Head of Digital Marketing at WNW Digital and manages Search Engine Optimisation, PPC, Social Media campaigns and Brand Awareness for WNW Digital SEO clients. You can follow her on Twitter @camilla_wnw, email her at camilla@wnwdigital.co.uk or phone on 01392 349580

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