In a report that appears more directed at copyright enforcement bodies than at infringers themselves, Google outlines the steps it takes to fight online privacy. Labeled ‘How Google Fights Piracy’, the 26 page report identifies five guiding principles to its strategy:
- Create More and Better Legitimate Alternatives
- Follow the Money
- Be Efficient, Effective and Scalable
- Guard Against Abuse
- Provide Transparency
So let’s have a closer look at what Google means by these principles…
Create More and Better Legitimate Alternatives
Despite the entertainment industry’s dire predictions about how widespread piracy is killing it off, we are living in an age where culture and the media are flourishing as never before. As a report by TechDirt (referenced by Google in their report) demonstrates, ‘more content and money is being made than ever before’.
Google argues that a large part of the reason for this is that where reasonably priced and readily available legitimate sources are available, most people are quite happy to pay for content.
‘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.’
It also argues that it is doing its bit in making legitimate sources readily available by providing convenient legal alternatives such as YouTube and Google Play,
’Each time a music fan chooses YouTube or Play over an unauthorized source, for example, it’s a victory against piracy.’
In addition to this, rather than just taking content that infringes on copyright down, Google’s Content ID system allows copyright holders to ‘monetize user-generated content on YouTube… resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties’.
Follow the Money
Google argues that most piracy websites which host or link to copyright infringing material are commercial enterprises that rely on advertising to make a profit. By attacking their revenue stream (‘rooting out and ejecting rogue sites from our advertising and payment services’), Google are ‘raising standards across the industry.’ To this end it disabled ad serving to 46,000 websites in 2012.
Be Efficient, Effective and Scalable
Google is particularly keen to demonstrate that it ‘strives to implement anti-piracy solutions that work’. Perhaps the most visible of these is removing websites that infringe copyright from its search results, and where its new streamlined approach to DMCA takedown notices (of which it received 57 million web page takedown requests in 2012, a 15-fold increase in volume from 2011) allows them 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’.
Guard Against Abuse
In a swipe at copyright enforcement bodies, Google makes it clear that it ‘works hard to detect and prevent abuses of the copyright removal system’, and cites some examples of this kind abuse, including:
- A driving school in the UK who requested the removal of a competitors homepage from Google search on the grounds that the competitor had copied an alphabetized list of cities and regions were instruction was offered
- A individual in the US who requested removal of search results that link to court proceedings referencing her first and last name on the ground that her name was copyrightable
- Multiple individuals in the US who requested the removal of search engine results linking to blog posts and web forums that associated their names with certain allegations, locations, dates, or negative comments
- A couple of incidents where ‘a major movie studio’ requested the removal of a review from a major newspaper website, and where one requested the removal of an IMDb page for one of its movies, as well as the removal of an official trailer that was posted on a major authorized online media service.
‘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.’
In addition to these transparency reports, users are also warned when a search request returns results that been removed, allowing users to read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal,
‘In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.’
Search and Piracy
Underlining the point that this report is primarily a response to copyright enforcement bodies’ constant whinging that it is not doing enough to prevent piracy, Google robustly asserts that:
- Search is not a major driver of traffic to pirate sites
- Search can’t eradicate pirate sites, and
- Volume of allegedly ‘piracy-related’ queries is dwarfed by broader queries.