As a result, companies like Google and Bing are considered major drivers of traffic to torrent and streaming sites, a point not lost on the world’s entertainment industry groups.
In an effort to stem the flow, both get hit with millions of DMCA-style notices every week. The engines comply by removing millions of links.
Over in Russia the situation is more complex and content groups want a change in the law to tip the balance in their favor. They’re demanding that search engines remove links to pirate sites from their results entirely, or face being held liable for third-party infringement.
The proposals from the Association of Film and Television Producers (APKIT) have already been sent to the Ministry of Culture, which is currently drafting a new anti-piracy law. They foresee companies like Google, Yandex and Microsoft being forced to deal with infringement, or else.
“The members of our association believe that search engines are the main problem of piracy,” APKIT’s Sergey Semenov told Izvestia.
“Search engines – this is the best place to stop the infringement. We want direct instructions in the law that search engines themselves become responsible for infringement, if they do not remove the links after they became aware of copyright infringement.”
According to anti-piracy chief Maxim Ryabyko of AZAPO, there is a difference of opinion among lawyers when it comes to search engine liability and whether they need to remove links. It all comes down to whether they can be defined as information brokers, information intermediaries, or something else.
APKIT’s Semenov says that since there is no clarity on what defines an information broker, it is necessary to write into law where search engines stand and from there determine liability. Yandex, on the other hand, believes that clarity already exists.
“Regulation of the activities of search engines in the form offered by the rightsholders – including holding them liable for copyright infringement – is inappropriate and legally incorrect, as existing legislation and judicial practice have a clear understanding of the impossibility of holding search engines liable for violating intellectual property rights,” a Yandex spokesperson said.
“The courts take the position that the search engines are not information intermediaries due to the nature of their work. This position is confirmed by numerous judicial practice.”
Back in August, Eksmo, a publisher responsible for around 30% of all Russian books, filed a complaint with Yandex which demanded it removed links to infringing content indexed by leading Russian torrent site, RuTracker.
Yandex was given 48 hours to “cease publishing any information necessary to access the forbidden resource rutracker.org.” Yandex refused to comply and the case went to court, with rightsholders demanding that the search engine should be blocked by ISPs. The Moscow Court rejected the application.