At the start of this year, a French bill went into effect that sanctioned the formation of a new regulatory body.
The old HADOPI anti-piracy outfit merged with the Higher Audiovisual Council, creating the Audiovisual and Digital Communication Regulatory Authority (Arcom).
Sports Piracy Crackdown
Along with this organizational change, Arcom received new anti-piracy powers. It can swiftly order online services to take down unlicensed streams of live sporting events, for example.
Thus far, more than 700 domain names have been reported to Arcom and subsequently blocked by local internet providers. According to the French authorities, live sports piracy was cut in half following these measures.
The speed and breadth at which these measures were implemented is impressive. Site blocking is common in other countries as well but legal procedures tend to be slower and more cumbersome elsewhere.
Google Offers a Helping Hand
Under Article L. 333-10 of the Sports Code, Internet providers can be ordered to take “proportionate measures” to prevent copyright infringement. Other services can be asked to take action as well, with Google a prime example.
Over the past months, Arcom has repeatedly sent notices to the search engine, asking it to remove infringing sports domains from its search results.
The “Government Requests” cite orders issued under the new blocking legislation. They target a wide range of sports streaming sites, including 4stream.gg, buffstream.io, pirlotv.fr, rojadirecta.me, and bingsport.com.
“It has been found that these services have as their main objective or among their main objectives the broadcasting of the FIM Moto GP World Championship Grand Prix 2022,” one notice reads, asking Google to delist the domain names.
The new law can be used against Google but, as far as we know, there are no recent court orders that compel the company to take action (Cf.). That said, the search engine decided to voluntarily comply with local blocking orders that are directed at Internet providers, which also appears to be the case here.
Interestingly, Arcom isn’t the only party asking Google to take action. The rightsholders themselves also send notices to the search engine, sometimes with similar domain names.
For example, last week broadcaster Canal+ asked Google to remove several domain names, citing an unnamed court order. This includes 4stream.gg, which is part of an earlier blocking order.
In the past, we noticed that Google’s blocking actions were not followed by other search engines. However, when we searched for several of the above-mentioned pirate site domains on Bing, we didn’t get any results either.
Bing doesn’t link to any specific requests. There is a notice at the bottom of some of the results pages, indicating that “some results have been removed” but whether that’s related to Arcom requests is unknown.
With or without Bing, the French authorities and rightsholders will be pleased that Google is lending a helping hand, voluntary or not. While it’s unrealistic to think that sports piracy can be fully defeated, marginalizing the practice is already a victory.