In recent years the movie and music industries have continually pressured Google to take action against online piracy.
Ideally, groups including the MPAA and RIAA want search engines to remove clearly infringing websites from their search results entirely, especially if courts have previously found them to be acting illegally.
Just recently the MPAA reiterated this stance in recommendations to U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC) Daniel Marti.
However, Google disagrees and is now urging the Government not to facilitate or promote so-called “whole-site” removals. According to the search giant this may lead to overbroad censorship.
“Unfortunately, whole-site removal is ineffective and can easily result in censorship of lawful material,” Google writes.
In its letter Google points out that blogging sites or social networks can contain infringing material, but that removing an entire site would also take down perfectly legitimate content.
The MPAA is probably not referring to blog platforms, but The Pirate Bay instead. However, according to Google the current DMCA takedown system is both effective and efficient enough to deal with all infringing content
“The DMCA provides copyright owners with an effective and efficient framework for removing any infringing page on a site,” Google stresses, noting that it has removed hundreds of millions of URLs already this year.
Removing or blocking entire websites might not only chill free speech but also prove counterproductive, Google says.
“Whole site removal would simply drive piracy to new domains, legitimate sites, and social networks,” the company notes, adding that copyright holders should go after the site’s revenue sources instead.
Another downside of whole-site removal is that the U.S. would send the wrong message to the rest of the world.
If the U.S. is prepared to censor entire websites based on copyright violations, then other regimes may find it easier to demand the same based on local laws. For example, by demanding the removal of news sites based on political statements, or insults to religion.
“This would jeopardize free speech principles, emerging services, and the free flow of information online globally and in contexts far removed from copyright,” Google notes.
Instead of taking a repressive approach, the U.S. Government should address piracy in a more positive way by encouraging the development of legal alternatives.
“Piracy thrives when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply,” Google writes.
“Online services like Google Play, Spotify, Netflix, and iTunes have demonstrated that the most effective way to combat piracy on the web is to offer attractive legal alternatives to consumers.”
Google’s letter will be taken into consideration by Intellectual Property Czar Daniel Marti, who is expected to release the 2016 – 2019 Joint Strategic Plan on Intellectual Property Enforcement during the months to come.