RIAA Wants Google to End Piracy “Whack-A-Mole”

RIAA CEO Cary Sherman wants search engines to take significant action against pirate sites. The RIAA says Google should implement special anti-piracy measures as copyright holders can't properly take down constantly reappearing links to infringing content. "It’s like 'Groundhog Day' for takedowns," Sherman says.

google-bayIn a written statement to a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the DMCA takedown system, RIAA CEO Cary Sherman informed lawmakers about the ongoing struggle against online piracy.

According to Sherman the current takedown system is not sufficient to deal with the problem. One of the main issues is that several foreign websites simply ignore takedown notices, or put the links back under a slightly modified URL.

“The Pirate Bay website, for example, simply ignores takedown notices. Mp3skull, we believe, immediately repopulates, with modest changes in the address, all of its links that are contained within our takedown notices,” Sherman explains.

For the RIAA and other copyright holders there are no legal options to deal with these rogue sites. However, the music industry group believes that Google and other search engines can do more to prevent people from accessing pirate sites through their services.

Sherman explains that Google deserves credit for processing takedown notices swiftly, but since the search engine limits the number of takedown requests copyright holders can send, it’s impossible for them to target piracy properly.

“Google places a numerical limit on the number of search queries we can make to find the infringing content and, as a result, we can only take down a tiny fraction of the number of infringing files on each pirate site, let alone on the Internet generally,” Sherman notes.

“Google claims that they ‘receive notices for far less than 1% of everything hosted and indexed by Google.’ Well, that’s largely because their search query limitations provide us with a bucket to address an ever-replenishing ocean of infringement,” he adds.

Regardless of whether Google ups its limits, the DMCA takedown process is still not sufficient for the RIAA. Sherman explains that several sites simply change the links, which are then available through Google and other search engines a day later.

“All those links to infringing music files that were automatically repopulated by each pirate site after today’s takedown will be re-indexed and appear in search results tomorrow. Every day we have to send new notices to take down the very same links to illegal content we took down the day before. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ for takedowns,” Sherman says.

“Every day we have to send new notices to take down the very same links to illegal content we took down the day before. It’s like ‘Groundhog Day’ for takedowns.”

The RIAA believes that it’s time for search engines to strike a deal with copyright holders to address this issue. The industry group wants Google to end the piracy “whack-a-mole” by going beyond the legal takedown requirements.

”Ensure that when links to content are taken down, the same content on the same site is not continuously re-indexed when repopulated by the pirate site, rendering the takedown process useless,” RIAA’s CEO suggests.

RIAA’s checkboxes

In addition the RIAA wants Google to lift all takedown limits, push down pirate sites in search results, promote legal sites and services, remove pirate terms from Autocomplete and completely remove “repeat infringers” from their search index.

Google, however, clearly disagrees with the RIAA.

Katherine Oyama, Google’s Senior Copyright Policy Counsel, appeared before the House Judiciary Subcommittee yesterday and stressed that the DMCA process is working just fine. She noted that some copyright holders abuse the process, but in general it works.

Bouncing the ball back into the RIAA’s court, Oyama noted that copyright holders should consider better SEO if they want to improve their search rankings. Other than that, they should focus on offering consumers what they want; decent legal alternatives.

“The best way to battle piracy is with better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy, as services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated. The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can,” Oyama said.

If anything, the above shows that Google and industry group such as the RIAA have a long way to go before they are on the same page. Both would like to address online piracy issues without new legislation, but in the near future they are not expected to reach consensus on the measures to take.

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