RIAA Wants Search Engines to Censor “Pirate Sites”

In a testimony before Congress on "The Future of Audio" today, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman will stress that more needs to be done to stop online piracy. In particular, search engines such as Google and Bing have to take responsibility and come up with appropriate technological solutions. The RIAA wants these search engines to censor pirate sites from their search results while giving priority to legitimate music services.

censoredLater today RIAA CEO Cary Sherman will take part in the “The Future of Audio” hearing (live now) at the U.S. House of Representatives.

While the music industry group’s main aim at the hearing is to convince legislators to close a loophole that allows radio stations to play music without paying performance rights, the topic of online piracy will not go undiscussed.

In a prepared statement, Sherman begins by pointing out that the image of the music business as an innovation-shy industry is misplaced. DRM-free downloads, unlimited streaming, free ad-supported streaming and music backups in the cloud are a few highlighted examples of innovative developments.

But despite all these services, piracy is still rampant. More needs to be done.

According to Sherman the music industry is more frequently steering towards voluntary agreements, and with success. They have struck a deal with ISPs to punish copyright infringers, helped payment processors to reduce payments to pirate sites, and encouraged major advertisers to discontinue business with “rogue” websites.

If the RIAA has its way, Google and other search engines will also collaborate on a similar agreement. Ideally, these search engines would no longer link to “infringing sites” such as The Pirate Bay and isoHunt.

“We hope other intermediaries like search engines will follow suit in negotiating voluntary marketplace best practices to prevent directing users to sites that are dedicated to violating property rights,” Sherman says in his speech.

TorrentFreak asked the RIAA to provide more details on what they see as an ideal scenario. Without going into specifics, we were directed to the following statements which reveal a bit more about the RIAA’s demands.

“Sites that engage in infringing activity should not appear as the first results when searching for what entertainment content to download or stream. This just leads to more piracy and popularity of the site,” the RIAA states.

“Rather, whether a site is authorized or unauthorized to make copyrighted works available to the public should be a significant indicator in determining ranking of the result, with unauthorized sites having lower rankings than authorized sites.”

In other words, “legitimate” search results should be boosted while “illegitimate” sites are degraded. The RIAA further suggests that the massive amount of DMCA complaints can be reduced by “technical changes,” a fancy way to describe censorship.

“Google should investigate why it has such a high volume of complaints from copyright holders, and whether additional procedural or technical changes could be made to assure legal activity, thereby lessening complaints.”

The above is in line with a set of demands copyright holders handed out to Google, Bing and Yahoo during a behind-closed-doors meeting facilitated by the UK Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

In this proposed “Voluntary Code of Practice” the copyright holders ask search engines to de-index substantially infringing sites.

While there is no sign yet that Google and others are open to these suggestions, it is a clear sign that the RIAA and others see broader search engine control as the way forward.

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