Rightsholders Want Google and Facebook to Scrub Links to Pirate Sites

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Creative Content Australia is urging the Australian Government to force online platforms to stop linking to pirate sites. According to the group's Chair, Graham Burke, services such as Google and Facebook facilitate access to illegal sites that harm rightsholders. These pirate sites also scam the public at large by propagating malware and stealing card details, Burke warns.

Australia has often been described as a hotbed for piracy.

Some people link this phenomenon to long release delays and high prices. However, former Village Roadshow CEO Graham Burke and many other industry insiders disagree.

They mainly point the finger at the ease of access to pirate sites, which is facilitated by services such as Google.

While Burke stepped down from his position as movie studio CEO last year, he remains heavily involved in anti-piracy issues. He is currently the Chair of Creative Content Australia, an industry group that unites several major companies in the entertainment business.

In recent years the group supported broader anti-piracy measures such as website blocking. However, it also believes that more has to be done. In particular, they see a major role for third-party intermediaries including search engines such as Google.

The Australian government previously highlighted the responsibility of these online services in curbing piracy but despite the encouragement to do more, copyright holders say they have noticed little change.

“What is happening is that the government, with legislation, shut the front door by blocking websites by ISP, but the search engines, namely Google, are taking people to pirate process proxy sites,” Burke told The Australian.

“If you google PIR you get taken to Pirate Bay proxies, where they say unashamedly, if the government blocked your Pirate Bay access through your ISP we can re-engage you right here.”

Interestingly, last year Burke was the one who reported that Google has started to remove hundreds of pirate sites from its search result following a voluntary agreement. While that was touted as a victory, it didn’t result in the desired effect.

Creative Content Australia believes that search engines are not taking enough responsibility. Therefore, the group asked the government to step in to make sure that blocked sites are not findable through these third-party platforms.

This applies to search engines, including Google, as well as social media platforms such as Facebook. According to the rightsholders, these companies ignore the government’s recommendations as laid out in ACCC’s review.

With its call to action, Creative Content Australia is obviously looking out for the financial interests of its members. However, the group also stresses that pirate sites pose a danger to the public.

The industry group has repeatedly highlighted the risk of malware and other nefarious activities people can run into. Burke reiterates these comments and now notes that pirate sites can suck up passwords and empty people’s bank accounts.

“When piracy first started they had advertising and they’re still doing some of that, but the big profit, huge profit, comes from getting someone’s credit card details and emptying their bank account.

“Even just by clicking on to a ­pirate website, they’re so sophisticated they can suck up all your ­information, your passwords and everything,” Burke adds.

These statements go quite far and come without any evidence. While there certainly are some scammy sites online, we’re not aware of any regular pirate sites that steal people’s information and money.

In the past, the industry group also pointed out that pirate sites are the number one way through which malicious software is spread. While we previously debunked that claim, Burke continues to hammer on the threat.

Time will tell whether the renewed pressure on the Australian government will have any effect. At the time of writing, links to The Pirate Bay and other blocked sites remain widely available through search engines and social media platforms.

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