Netherlands Is The Latest To Outlaw Search Engines

from the going-after-the-wrong-targets dept

One of the ongoing debates around file sharing and content downloads is whether or not the tools to help people find content should be illegal if the content they help point out is illegal. This was the crux of the Grokster case, where the Supreme Court set up a fuzzy “inducement” standard. Other countries have struggled with the issue as well — with some deciding linking to unauthorized content should be illegal and others recognizing that simply linking to something shouldn’t be a crime. Now we can add the Netherlands to the list of countries that has believes search engines can be illegal, even if they don’t host any unauthorized content themselves. The article includes obligatory quotes from the recording industry about how this is a “boost” in the fight. Of course, as has been shown repeatedly, that’s ridiculous. People will simply gravitate to other search engines (perhaps pushed along by the publicity these lawsuits generate). However, a more important point is where do you set the boundary for outlawing a search engine that doesn’t do anything illegal itself? In this case, it was a search engine for MP3s — yet there are many, many musicians who actually like to give away their MP3s for free. So, shutting down such a search engine hurts many musicians who choose to go this route in promoting their music. Yes, it also stops the unauthorized downloading (from that search engine only), but why do the proponents of one side get to dictate what technology the other side can’t use in promoting their music? Is there a specific percentage of unauthorized content where you need to draw the line? How do you strike that balance if you’re always shutting down these engines? At the same time, from the technology side, it wouldn’t be hard (and, yes, it’s been done) for people to simply build an mp3 search engine on top of Google or Yahoo. Should the industry go after Yahoo and Google and shut them down to stop this? That seems ridiculous, of course, but if you can’t stop Google and Yahoo, then what good is stopping one of these niche search engines? It’s another wasted effort designed more to hold back innovation and new business models, rather than embrace it.

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Comments on “Netherlands Is The Latest To Outlaw Search Engines”

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Adam Singer (user link) says:

being an artist...

“n this case, it was a search engine for MP3s — yet there are many, many musicians who actually like to give away their MP3s for free. So, shutting down such a search engine hurts many musicians who choose to go this route in promoting their music.”

I do give away plenty of free mp3s of my art – so this absolutely hurts me…

Stop trying to regulate the internet!

J.R. says:

Because shutting them down is seen as “the thing to do”, and government is inherently stupid and blind. What amuses me is that, in an age of unparalleled communication, we’re more divided and lead by blind governments than ever before. We have at our fingertips the most powerful thing humanity has ever created. It’s the thing towards which we’ve been building since the first pre-civilized man jotted down his thoughts on a cave wall somewhere. And here we run around flipping out because the technology wasn’t introduced under strict control by the government, but was rather given straight to the people. It’s given us a level of personal and informational freedom we’ve never had before, and as any government can tell you: an informed public is likelier to call you on your bullshit.

rijit (profile) says:

Re: J.R.

The problem there of course, J.R., is the people have to care enough to get involved and do something. We Americans have gotten lazy and fat. We rest on our moral standards and see them continuously erode. We see the government outright cheat people, lie, steal, rape, and plunder and what do we do about it? We say “That’s a shame.” and we might blog about it, talk about it on a few posts, etc. but we never really DO anything about it. When was the last time anyone reading this did anything about something they thought the government was doing was unjust??

Anonymous Coward says:


The idea that something used to search for things that returns both legal and illegal results could be applied to everything in life.

1) Pawn shops: I could buy a gun and use it for sporting or illegal activites.

2) Online or any other type of dating service like This could be a way to meet new people or a way to meet new victims.

3) Grocery stores: I could buy eggs to eat or to throw at cars.

If the government wants to do some detective work and arrest people that are doing illegal things then I’m sure they will; but, let’s be honest here. It’s not the store/company’s problem.

ForkBoySpam says:

Right On G-Money!

I have to agree with Anonymous Coward on this one. Where does it all stop? Gun companies can’t make guns cause guns are killing people, cell phone companies can’t sell phones cause people are getting hit by trains. Pretty soon government will just be telling us what to by…do….eat…drink….etc. Let’s address the real issue, the lawbreakers not the innovators.

wolff000 says:

Once again

The reason they make such things illegal that obviously aren’t is because you can’t control an honest man. If you have done nothing wrong the government can’t tell you what to do, but if they make damn near everything illegal they have all kinds of control over you. this is why we see such ridiculous laws pop up like this one. It’s not about the money or the corporations its about the power. So instead of complaining about thesse dumb laws we should do something about them. As far as what to do I haven’t figured that out yet. I have racked my brain but from all my observations our system is just too broken to fix. So if anybody has any ideas on how to stop these stupid laws and take away the power the government has please let me know.

VoiceOfReason says:

Governments need your help to figure this out

If you think the govt is doing something stupid, may be it is because on one has shown them the way to do it in a smarter way. And it is not sufficient to just say they have to get on with the times. They see no short term benefits in that, and long term benefits, in the absense of proven models, are not clear at all. Taking such risks is not the government’s job. It is yours and mine.

Anonymous Coward says:

J. R. and rjit

Good point, but let me point out that you don’t necessarily have to do anything explicit. When you download free MP3’s from the internet and talk to your friends about the musician (and the site from where you downloaded it), the musician and the site become successful. As more and more such entities in various internet-enabled businesses become successful, it becomes harder and harder for the government to stop the tool that made it happen. This is not just about power to the people, it is also about automatic power without having to actively seek it.

KGH (user link) says:

when is it going to happen here?

I too run an MP3 search engine and am not too thrilled about these kind of decisions. I really wonder when it will happen here, and how it will come about? I hope that the DMCA will cover sites like mine, but the industry doesn’t seem to respect that act.

I think it would be amazing if we could just filter out the major label content (or any content that owners don’t want posted), because it would leave a TON of great audio (music and otherwise) which would be free and legal. I would be more than willing to work with the RIAA to do this.

I am also a musician with free MP3s of my band posted on my site. I used to get lots of traffic from Baidu, which was very exicting because it led to many Chinese blogs reviewing the band. Sadly that traffic has dropped significantly since they have been forced to change their MP3 search.

Anonymous Coward says:

Plain and simple

Money vs. John Doe.

The reason y MPAA or RIAA doesnt go after Google, since it can be used for illegal porpuse, its because it would cost a lot and prolly wouldn’t work, whille they can go after a small group of John Does, that work togethor to build up a site for emule links or server and their only source of cash is mostly donations.

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