IFPI and RIAA Patronize Google With Anti-Piracy “Report Card”

The IFPI has told Google it must try harder with its copyright enforcement activities. In its patronizing teacher/student style "Report Card", the music industry group says the search giant profits from digital piracy, puts up barriers to make life difficult for rightsholders, engages in destructive rhetoric and raises alarmist, self-serving criticism to any legislative proposal designed to thwart infringement.

When seeking to build mutually beneficial partnerships, one might think that the way to best achieve that is via mutual respect. What seems clear from the latest report from the IFPI, is that the best way to nurture a relationship with Google is to patronize and criticize the search engine in public.

One Year Later: Google’s Report Card on Making Copyright Work Better Online is the embarrassingly patronizing title of a new report from the IFPI detailing Google’s progress on copyright infringement issues over the past 12 months. Unsurprisingly the whole thing reads like a school report, with the IFPI setting out what Google should have achieved and then noting what ‘grade’ the search engine actually achieved in each task.

“While Google has taken some modest steps to deal with copyright infringement online, the promises made by Google remain unfulfilled,” the report begins.

“Despite its steps, the simple fact is that Google continues to both (i) receive financial benefits from sites and applications that engage in piracy and (ii) place artificial road blocks in rights holder efforts to protect their content online, contrary to the DMCA.”

The report notes that Google made a promise to act on reliable copyright takedown requests within 24 hours and is commended for exceeding that. Nevertheless, a company capable of returning search results “in nanoseconds” should be doing better, IFPI suggests. Furthermore, the music group states that Google has put a limit on the number of infringement reports that can be filed each day that “do not scale to the scope of piracy online.”

Google is also criticized for not adequately screening apps for compatibility with the music industry’s interests before allowing them onto the Android Marketplace, and then profiting from them in the period before they are taken down.

Surprisingly, given the recent and wrongful Mega Song takedown, IFPI criticizes Google for giving users the right to issue copyright claim counter notices without them “having a clear understanding” of the rights issues involved.

“We find it disturbing that Google admonishes rights holders to ensure their claim is valid and warns them about penalties for false claims, but fails to hold the average user to similar standards. Is that neutral, or is that tipping the scales in a manner that benefits Googles bottom line?” the report asks.

On the issue of censorship of its AutoComplete feature it’s noted that some progress has been made but, no surprise, Google needs to do better. “For example, when “lady gaga mp3″ is typed into the search bar, Autocomplete directs a user to choose “lady gaga mp3 free” or “lady gaga mp3 download,” results that lead to illegal sites,” IFPI complains.

Referencing Google’s AdSense program, IFPI says that Google should proactively screen all sites to which it serves ads to ensure they aren’t “pirate sites,” a truly massive and almost impossible task given that music licensing is IFPI members’ responsibility and area of specialty, not Google’s.

The search engine is also criticized for not prioritizing “authorized” over “unauthorized” sites in its search results. Google’s YouTube doesn’t avoid criticism either.

“Increasingly, music-oriented videos posted on YouTube include links to download the sound recording associated with the video illegally. This is in violation of YouTube’s own policies. In addition, YouTube hosts videos explaining how to game the Content ID system and how to rip the audio content to create an MP3 file from a music video,” the report notes.

Overall, Google is told that it must do better if it is to meet the standards required by the music industry. However, what is also clear from the language in the report is that improved results will only lead to demands for even greater “grades” next year.

The school report ends with Google getting admonished for its negative attitude in class.

“While professing to agree that copyright infringement is a serious problem that needs to be addressed, Google raises alarmist, self-serving criticism to any legislative proposal to deter or thwart rampant copyright infringement,” notes the report (pdf).

“Google should stop engaging in destructive rhetoric and come to the table with constructive proposals to address this problem,” it concludes.

There’s no doubt that Google has its faults, but treating the company as if it is the one engaging in rampant copyright infringement can’t be a sustainable tactic. Admonishing and patronizing it in public won’t help either.

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