When it became clear that suing file-sharers wasn’t going to stop online infringement and that trying to keep up with thousands of linking and storage sites would prove almost impossible, the music and movie industries came to the conclusion that they would need new tools.
Rather than focusing purely on taking unauthorized content offline, they would seek to make it unfindable instead. As countries grapple with the various site blocking proposals currently sweeping the world, the music and movie industries have piled pressure on the site that helps people find content above almost any other – Google.
The world’s leading search engine has been fairly responsive too. In January this year they began censoring “piracy-related” terms from their Autocomplete and Instant features, which included words such as BitTorrent, uTorrent, RapidShare, MegaUpload and later Mediafire.
According to an announcement from Google, there’s more to come.
“In December, we announced four initiatives to tackle the problem of copyright infringement online. We’ve made considerable progress on each front, and we will continue to evolve our efforts in all four areas in the months to come,” says Kent Walker, Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel.
Censorship of search results is just one of the four initiatives, Google also wants to action takedown requests more quickly in response to rightsholders who say the process takes too long.
“We promised to build tools to make it easier for rightsholders to submit DMCA takedown requests for Google products (starting with Blogger and Web Search), and to reduce our average response time to 24 hours or less for submissions using these new tools,” Walker writes.
“We built the tools earlier this year, and they are now being successfully used by more than a dozen content industry partners who together account for more than 75% of all URLs submitted in DMCA takedowns for Web Search.
“Our response time for these partners is now well below the 24 hour target. In the coming months, we will be making these tools available more broadly to those who have established a track record of submitting valid takedown requests,” says Walker.
Google has also been criticized for not only making “pirate” sites findable, but actually funding them through their AdSense advertising programs. Google does in fact already ban file-sharing sites from using their ad scheme, but there are so many sites that often some get through. Google wants to tighten this up.
“In recent months, we have worked hard to improve our internal enforcement procedures. In April, we were among the first companies to certify compliance in the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB’s) Quality Assurance Certification program, through which participating advertising companies will take steps to enhance buyer control over the placement and context of advertising and build brand safety,” notes Walker.
“In addition, we have invited rightsholder associations to identify their top priority sites for immediate review, and have acted on those tips when we have received them.”
Google also says it continues to make efforts to improve the visibility of authorized music content in its search results, such as through Music Rich Snippets.
As noted by the UK’s BPI last year, the industry would like Google to move links to ‘authorized’ music stores higher up their results too, although that is yet to emerge.
However, as highlighted in our July report, the search engine filtering carried out by Google has had a profound effect on the search volumes of affected keywords.
BitTorrent Searches on Google
Whether or not this has the net result of pushing authorized music sources higher up the results when a user searches remains to be seen.
“There is plenty more to be done, and we look forward to further refining and improving our processes in ways that help both rightsholders and users,” Walker concludes.