Hollywood and Google Square Off Over Pirate Search Results

The MPAA is still not happy with Google's efforts to reduce online piracy and says that the search giant continues to facilitate a "staggering amount of copyright infringement." For their part Google is warning policymakers of the damaging effects the recent surge of DMCA takedown requests is having on the flow of information online. Both Google and the MPAA agree that the current DMCA takedown procedures are not ideal, but the solutions both parties have in mind are quite different.

google bayFor years entertainment industry groups have been demanding that Google does something about the “pirate sites” showing up in their search results.

Google has responded to these concerns by taking a variety of measures aimed at decreasing copyright infringement. Last year they removed “piracy” related terms from their Instant and Suggest services, and later started to downrank websites based on the number of DMCA requests they receive.

To offer full transparency, Google also decided to make the DMCA notices public. The search giant points out that this move resulted in a surge of legitimate and illegitimate removal requests, which appears to concern the company.

Google’s Legal Director Fred Von Lohmann says that due to collateral damage freedom of speech may be restricted online.

“As policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online. When we launched the copyright removals feature, we received more than 250,000 requests per week. That number has increased tenfold in just six months to more than 2.5 million requests per week today.”

Reading between the lines it is clear that Google is not happy with the current situation. Google does not make any suggestions as to how things can be improved, but urges policymakers to consider whether the avalanche of DMCA requests is in best interest of the public.

“We’ll continue to fine tune our removals process to fight online piracy while providing information that gives everyone a better picture of how it works. By making our copyright data available in detail, we hope policymakers will be able to see whether or not laws are serving their intended purpose and being enforced in the public interest,” Von Lohmann notes.

The MPAA, however, believes that if one industry has the right to complain, it’s them. According to the Hollywood group it is the content creators who are most troubled by the way things are at the moment.

“Google’s reading of the data is missing some critical perspective: if the process is cumbersome for Google, it is even more cumbersome for the creators and makers who must constantly be on the lookout to protect their work from theft,” Marc Miller, MPAA’s Senior Vice President for internet content protection states in a response to Google.

According to the MPAA, Google is facilitating massive copyright infringement while the copyright holders only have limited tools to make “pirate” results disappear.

“There is a staggering amount of copyright infringement taking place every day online and much of it is facilitated by Google, as their own data shows,” Miller notes.

“By Google’s own accounting, millions of times each week creators are forced to raise a complaint with Google that the company is facilitating the theft of their work and ask that the infringing work or the link to that work be removed. Often, even when the links are removed, they pop right back up a few hours later. That’s not a reasonable — or sustainable — system for anyone.”

The MPAA adds that the discussion about how to deal with piracy has nothing to do with restriction of speech on the Internet, but sides with Google’s conclusion that something has to be done to improve the current situation. The Hollywood group doesn’t necessarily see this as a discussion for policymakers though.

“We couldn’t agree more with Google that this data shows that our current system is not working – for creators, or for Google. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that it also confirms the important role that Google has to play in helping curb the theft of creative works while protecting an Internet that works for everyone,” Miller states.

In other words, Google has to step up its efforts.

Last year a behind-closed-doors meeting revealed that the copyright industry is pushing Google to completely de-list popular filesharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, and give higher ranking to authorized sites.

Thus far Google has refused to give in, but the most recent square off illustrates that the MPAA and other copyright lobby groups will continue to push for these changes.

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