Google Senior Counsel Defends Company’s Anti-Piracy Measures

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Google senior copyright counsel Fred von Lohmann has been defending his company's anti-piracy stance after he was challenged by another lawyer on Twitter. It started as a discussion over infringing domains but quickly turned into a debate over downranking sites.

google-waterWhile threats against The Pirate Bay were once in vogue, entertainment industry outfits have already decided that attacking ancillary legitimate companies might be the way forward.

As a result (and despite going way beyond its obligations under current copyright law) Google is increasingly being made the scapegoat for the world’s piracy problems.

Someone uploads illegal content to YouTube? That must be Google’s fault. Google indexes an allegedly infringing site among the millions of others it indexes? Google’s fault too, even though it’s prepared to deindex any number of pages on request.

In short, whatever the company does, it’s never enough, and the pressure is being ramped up from all angles from those who expect Google to become the Internet police.

Last evening TF published an article detailing how the MPAA’s deal with the Donuts registry had resulted in the disabling of the domain.

The piece was retweeted by Google Senior Counsel Fred von Lohmann but soon others were weighing in. Lawyer Devlin Hartline from the Center for the Protection of Intellectual Property immediately accused Google of being part of the problem.

Von Lohmann quickly fired back, noting that all Google had done was index the site like any other among the billion online today. It also received less than 500 URL complaints against the site and had removed them all.

But by now Hartline had the bit between his teeth

“It was an obvious pirate site, which @DonutsInc thankfully did something about rather than index it for the world. #FixTheNet,” he wrote.

But Hartline wasn’t done yet. Since is clearly a very small player, the lawyer upped the ante by changing the argument to encompass a much bigger site. is a world leader when it comes to copyright complaints so Hartline asked von Lohmann why that site still appears in search results, throwing in a #lame for good measure.

Noting that Hartline had switched the argument, von Lohmann turned his attention to the Google search parameters his sparring partner had included in his Tweet. Rather than searching for specific and perhaps pirate content, Hartline’s search was formulated to show all of 4shared’s pages. As a result, that’s what he got.

“Can you get 4shared to appear [in Google’s search results] with a query that doesn’t include their name?” von Lohmann responded. Hartline quickly fired back.

“If you think that 4shared is so obviously pirate that you demote it in the search results, why not just remove it altogether?” he said. Old ground, von Lohmann said.

In response, Hartline said he was “well aware” of the debate but still he persisted. If Donuts is prepared to pull the trigger, why doesn’t Google simply do “more”?

Of course, no matter what anti-piracy measures Google puts in place, rightsholders always want “more”. For its part, Google feels that it’s doing enough but in the meantime von Lohmann had some pretty sound advice for Hartline. If you don’t want infringing results, stop searching for them.

This is a pretty important statement from von Lohmann. What he’s reiterating is that unless people go specifically hunting for content on sites that have received the most DMCA notices, those sites won’t appear in search results.

This means that users who are casually searching for music, movies or TV shows (legal or illegal) won’t be handed results from 4shared or other popular ‘pirate’ sites unless they form their searches to do so.

Of course, ‘pirate’ results still appear but these days the quality of those results is much lower than it used to be. Rightsholders won’t be happy until they’ve gone completely though, so arguments like these will continue, ad infinitum.


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