Music Industry Mulls Suing Google Over “Pirate” Search Results

The recording industry considers filing a lawsuit against Google for allegedly abusing its dominant market position to distort the market for online music. Industry groups including IFPI and the RIAA want Google to degrade links to "pirate" websites in its search results. IFPI has obtained a "highly confidential and preliminary legal opinion" to see if they can force Google to step up its anti-piracy efforts though a lawsuit.

google bayIt’s no secret that the entertainment industries believe search engines are not delivering enough when it comes to protecting copyright works.

Two months ago the RIAA and IFPI accused Google of massively profiting from piracy and obstructing efforts of rightsholders to reduce the availability of illegal content.

Thus far, this row between Google and the entertainment industries has largely taken place behind closed doors, but a confidential document circulating among music industry executives shows that a lawsuit is also being considered.

“IFPI’s litigation team, in coordination with the RIAA, is continuing to negotiate with Google to obtain better anti-piracy cooperation in various areas,” the unpublished document obtained by Handelszeitung and partly shared with TorrentFreak explains. It is noted that Google provided recording labels with a special online search interface that allows for mass queries to be marked as infringing.

Using this interface, IFPI reported a massive 460,000 Google search results between August and December 2011. In addition, hundreds of Blogger sites were reported and shutdown upon request from the music industry group.

But IFPI claims this is still not enough, and is considering suing Google because the company fails to censor links to infringing content.

“Google continues to fail to prioritize legal music sites over illegal sites in search results, claiming that its algorithm for search results is based on the relevance of sites to consumers,” the document states.

“With a view to addressing this failure, IFPI obtained a highly confidential and preliminary legal opinion in July 2011 on the possibility of bringing a competition law complaint against Google for abuse of its dominant position, given the distortion of the market for legitimate online music that is likely to result from Google’s prioritizing of illegal sites.”

In other words, IFPI accuses Google of antitrust practices by failing to censor its search results in favor of the music industry. Strong words, and quite unprecedented if a lawsuit does indeed get filed.

A “Voluntary Code of Practice” suggested by the entertainment industries last month revealed that the IFPI and RIAA want all search engines to de-list popular file-sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, and give higher ranking to ‘legal’ alternatives.

Today we learned that if Google doesn’t give in to these demands, an unprecedented lawsuit may follow.

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