How Google Helps Copyright Holders to Fight Piracy

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Google has released a comprehensive paper detailing all its main efforts to help copyright holders beat piracy. The company further emphasizes that better legal alternatives do much more than enforcement, but doesn't shy away from cutting off money to pirate sites. In addition, the search engine says it develops search engine optimization strategies for copyright holders to feature legitimate content more prominently.

google-bayOver the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to anti-piracy efforts.

These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has implemented various new anti-piracy measures over the years.

For example, the company has started to filter “piracy-related” terms from its AutoComplete and Instant services and downrank websites which their algorithms classify as infringing. But according to Google that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

To show the public and policy makers how the company addresses copyright infringement, Google has now released a paper called “How Google Fights Piracy” detailing its core principles on this front. Some of these are aimed at helping copyright holders, but the company also stresses that it’s vital to prevent abuse by rightsholders.

Create More and Better Legitimate Alternatives.

The first principle highlighted by Google is the importance of legal offerings. Without legal options it’s hard to beat unauthorized copying, they argue.

“Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply. As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services. The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.”

While this is mainly a task for the content providers, Google is lending a helping a hand with Google Play and YouTube.

Follow the Money.

On the enforcement side, Google is doing its best to ensure that “pirate” sites are not allowed to use its ad services. In 2012 the company cut off 46,000 sites for violating its copyright policies, and the vast majority of these violations were detected before they were reported by copyright holders.

In the report Google describes itself as a frontrunner in targeting rogue revenue streams.

“Rogue sites that specialize in online piracy are commercial ventures, which means the most effective way to combat them is to cut off their money supply. Google is a leader in rooting out and ejecting rogue sites from our advertising and payment services, and are raising standards across the industry.”

Be Efficient, Effective, and Scalable.

The most visible anti-piracy efforts are related to Google’s search results. The company is faced with millions of DMCA takedown requests every week which are processed with blazing speeds.

“Google strives to implement anti-piracy solutions that work. For example, beginning in 2010, Google has made substantial investments in streamlining the copyright removal process for search results. As a result these improved procedures allow us to process copyright removal requests for search results at the rate of four million requests per week with an average turnaround time of less than six hours,” Google writes.

Based on the volume of DMCA notices, among other things, Google also downranks websites in its search results to further minimize the visibility of copyright infringing content.

Guard Against Abuse.

The downside of the DMCA procedure is that the system is sometimes abused, either intentionally or by mistake.

“Unfortunately, fabricated copyright infringement allegations can be used as a pretext for censorship and to hinder competition. Google is committed to ensuring that, even as we battle piracy online, we detect and reject bogus infringement allegations, such as removals for political or competitive reasons.”

In the report, Google highlights several of these abuse cases including self-censorship by Warner Brothers who took down their own IMDb listing and a trailer.

Google’s examples of DMCA abuse


Provide Transparency.

The fifth and final anti-piracy principle Google highlights is transparency. Unlike most of its competitors the company publishes all DMCA notices it receives for its search results.

“We disclose the number of requests we receive from copyright owners and governments to remove information from our services. We hope these steps toward greater transparency will inform ongoing discussions about content regulation online.”

The transparency reports are used by copyright holders to point out how massive the piracy problem is, and on the other side they are used to control copyright holders by pointing out abuse cases.

Towards the end of the report Google highlights a relatively new development which it also informed the U.S. Government about last month. Besides taking down infringing results the company is also helping music labels and movie companies to improve their search engine rankings.

“For the relatively rare queries that return more problematic search results, Google is already in discussions with content owners to develop search engine optimization (“SEO”) strategies for their authorized online content distributors,” Google noted.

TorrentFreak asked Google for more details and whether all copyright holders, including independent artists, could expect SEO help from Google. However, a company spokesman pointed us to the report and most of these questions remain unanswered for now.

While it’s clear that Google is not ignoring the piracy issue, the paper appears to be a reminder to policy makers rather than the copyright holders. It’s part of an indirect back and forth between both camps where a compromise has yet to be reached.

The RIAA, for one, is still not convinced and quickly responded to Google’s report with a demand for more effective measures.


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