Why Search Engines Can't Just 'Fix' Search Results The Way The MPAA/RIAA Want

from the not-that-simple dept

It’s become clear in the past year or so that one key “target” in the legacy entertainment industry’s game plan is to force Google to change its search results to have “good sites” rise up and “bad sites” be pushed down. They’ve been putting pressure on search engines for quite some time now, and have even considered suing Google for not giving it the results they want. Late last year, the RIAA even put out a “report card” in which it complained that Google won’t let them program Google’s results for everyone else.

This whole focus is a dumb idea for a few reasons. Mostly it’s dumb because it (again) misdiagnoses the problem. It assumes, for example, that the reason that people go to file sharing sites is because the results top Google. But that’s rarely the case. In fact, if you do searches for various tracks or movies, you’ll almost always find legitimate results at the top already. The “issue” comes up when people do those searches in combination with “free” or something along those lines. But, by that point (in most, but not all, cases) the industry has already lost those folks. At that point it’s likely that they know they’re looking for an unauthorized version, so seeing a more “legitimate” result at the top of the results isn’t likely to make much of a difference.

Even if we assume that the industry’s theory that Google is magically driving total rubes to unauthorized sites when they really wanted expensive, inconvenient, DRM-laden, limited pay sites, the simple fact is that it’s not as easy as they think to “fix” the search results. In many ways this is similar (or perhaps it’s just another version of the same exact thing) of the industry talking about how it’s “easy” for ISPs, online service providers and everyone else to “just know” when a song or video is infringing — but then are so confused that they sue over videos they themselves uploaded. Knowing whether or not something is infringing is not as easy as the industry insists.

Similarly, knowing what’s a “good” site and a “bad” site isn’t so easy either. How would you approach it?

  • You could just take a list from the RIAA & MPAA of “good sites” and “bad sites.” That raises a bunch of problems. Let’s just start with antitrust. Two trade associations representing the biggest record labels (who’ve had antitrust problems in the past) and Hollywood studios giving Google (already under antitrust scrutiny) a list of winners and losers? Er… DOJ on lines one, two and three. No way is that legal.
  • Even if it was legal, not everyone agrees who is “good” and “bad.” It’s easy for the RIAA and the MPAA to insist that Megaupload — for example — is unquestionably “bad.” But… then you have major label artists and super successful indie artists speaking out against the shutdown, pointing out that there were plenty of good things about the service. Why does the RIAA get to decide when some of its own artists feel otherwise?
  • The RIAA and MPAA don’t have a very good history of recognizing a “good” new thing when they see it. In fact, they seem to scream bloody murder (sometimes literally in the case of the VCR) when new useful tools show up. Letting them program Google’s search results seems fraught with problems.
  • If search engines let the RIAA and MPAA program their results to point to “good sites” and suppress “bad sites,” where does it stop? For years we’ve seen lawsuits against Google from companies that don’t like how they show up in the search results. Why don’t they get to reprogram Google’s results too? Or pick any random industry out of a hat. Car dealers? I’m sure when you do a search on a car they want results to point to a “good” local dealer, rather than a “bad” site that tells you how to get a better deal on a car. Imagine having to do that at scale where every industry has its own interpretation. And then what happens when those interpretations conflict?
  • Okay, so if they don’t just give Google a list, how does it “know” the “good” sites from the “bad” sites? Again, remember with Megaupload, we’ve seen plenty of artists say they like the site or its offerings which actually help them make money. Can Google just assume? How? That’s not how Google works. If you have any sense of the scale under which any search engine works you know that’s an impossible task. There’s no way to just know — especially since sites that are “downgraded” are likely to just set up shop somewhere new and start again. So at scale, the problem becomes even trickier.
  • What if there was a “proxy”? Ok. Like what? DMCA notices? If a site gets lots of DMCA notices, it must be bad, right? Okay, so look at ChillingEffects… and you realize that the sites that get the most DMCA takedowns are sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter. It does’t seem like a very good proxy, because sites that are popular get lots of takedowns. It doesn’t mean they’re “bad.”
  • An “independent” third party? Who is the third party? How do they take into account the issues above? And, again, if you’re doing that for one industry, you’d have to do it for all. And that simply doesn’t work at scale.

In the end, I can’t actually see any way that Google can do what the industry wants. I know that someone in the comments below will link to some random site and say something to the effect of “how can Google say this site is legit?!?!” but that ignores how Google actually works. It’s an algorithm. It doesn’t look at sites like a human does. At scale there’s simply no way that Google can have a human check each of the sites in its index.

The problem is that Google isn’t designed to prop up the entertainment industry’s old business model. It’s designed to provide people results for what they’re searching for. Those may be two different things. Google’s algorithm does try to give users the “best” result for what they’re looking for, and quite frequently that is the legitimate, authorized offering, but it’s not always so easy there. iTunes sales are mostly done through iTunes’ software, rather than on the web, which makes it difficult for Google to track link popularity there. Amazon music and movie sales often initiate from Amazon’s own search, rather than Google — so, again, Google has less data to work with.

Furthermore, if someone does a search for the name of a movie plus “download” when that movie isn’t available for download, what is Google supposed to do, exactly? If the movie industry weren’t so obsessed with release windows, Google could point people to the authorized download. But without that, how is it supposed to do that? If there is no authorized download, it’s going to try its best, and sometimes that’s going to be to an unauthorized source.

In the end, for those who keep insisting that this is somehow an obvious solution, and complaining that Google isn’t helping, I’m wondering if you can actually explain how it can do a better job, because the more I think through it, the less I think it’s even remotely possible for Google to do what the industry wants.

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Companies: google, mpaa, riaa

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Comments on “Why Search Engines Can't Just 'Fix' Search Results The Way The MPAA/RIAA Want”

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129 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

This isn’t entirely true. Search engines often feature “official” sites at the top of listings. Heck, Google sells advertising on the top spots, so the rest should be easy.

Movie title: Official site should be first – studios would just have to register

Song title: Same thing – either the artist page, the label page, or whatever.

It can be done. It’s just that Google is unwilling to stop people from being filtered through thousands of junky adwords packed pages looking for content.

Richard (profile) says:

They misunderstand how Google works

It assumes, for example, that the reason that people go to file sharing sites is because the results top Google.

Actually – insofar as that is true the causation is the reverse – the results top Google because those are the sites people visit – that is precisely what makes Google successful. If Google was forced to work differently then that would just create an opportunity for A. N. Other to take over – and it would happen quickly too – just like it did when Google took over from Yahoo and AltaVista.

DannyB (profile) says:

Wac a mole

If the MPAA/RIAA (and every other industry) got their way to program Google’s results, then Google would become irrelevant to the end user.

The purpose of search engines is to find what the user is trying to find.

If the MPAA/RIAA could destroy Google in this way, then another search engine would appear (probably a dozen) that does what users want.

Eventually they would be decentralized.

Why does the MPAA/RIAA seem unable to foresee the logical end results of anything? They could not foresee the end consequences of SOPA/PIPA. They can’t see the end results of release windows. Newspapers can’t see the end results of paywalls. These people could hire smart people to tell them — but then they would never believe them.

Chris Brand says:

That's how search engines already work

Right. So what they need to do is to change people’s opinions so that they prefer the “legitimate” sites.
Two obvious ways to do that – education (oh, wait, they’ve been trying that for the last decade or so, and it hasn’t worked), and improving the legitimate sites.

So I conclude that I completely agree with the RIAA’s quest here – they should improve their products to the point where they can compete with the “bad” sites, hence making them more popular and moving them higher in Goggle’s search results.

hothmonster says:

You know the RIAA/MPAA could just make their own search engine that links to legitimate content. If you want a song or a movie you go to assrapists.com(working title) and search for it and all the legal options will show up, stores, streaming downloads ect.

Of course this would only serve to highlight how few, if any, legal options there are. Also the labels would have to invest in something that doesn’t sound like last years hit record/screenplay and people who are employed by them would have to actually work so it probably won’t happen.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

Then the RIAA and MPAA needs to do what everyone else does…

It’s called SEO. Start making sites with relevant content and keywords and get people to link to it. Oh wait that requires WORK and either actually learning about how all of this works or listening to someone who knows how it works. Oh nevermind, what was I thinking. They aren’t willing to do any of that.

mariush (profile) says:

Re:


This isn’t entirely true. Search engines often feature “official” sites at the top of listings.[…]

Song title: Same thing – either the artist page, the label page, or whatever.

This wouldn’t be fair for lots of users, as it gives an unfair advantage to certain companies or artists.

For example, let’s say I’m a photographer and I travel to Italy or Belgium and snap some photos of Madonna… you know, the statue.

Should my website where I sell prints of the photos be downgraded because poor artist Madonna is not rich enough or her publisher loses money?

Actually, search for “Madonna” right now on Google and you’ll probably find the “Madonna of Bruges” article from Wikipedia, links to movie pages with Madonna in the title, hospitals with Madonna in the name.

Sounds like a reasonable result. Should we get instead 10-20 official stores selling Madonna music on the first page instead?

Don’t you feel there’s some entitlement issue with the music companies if they feel they deserve to be in front of others?

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Wac a mole

There are already several peer-to-peer search engines out there. The fun thing is that as with any peer-to-peer service it will only get better the more people that use it. Them attacking Google will drive more people to these peer-to-peer services.

Once they get enough users they will surpass Google and the MPAA/RIAA will find they created a monster they have less control over than Google.

mariush (profile) says:

Re:

Oh and let’s not get into things like contract disputes or what happens when an artist leaves a publisher.

There’s a great example in Prince, who was not allowed to use his “Prince” name until the contract with Warner expired. Later on he moved to Universal, another publisher.

In this case, which publisher’s site and online store gets to decide what to be as first result?
What if the artist’s contracts expire and he’s now indie or self published? Does the artist have a word in what should be listed as first results?

You can see it’s not so easy…

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

This is actually what I was thinking as the only even remotely feasible answer: the RIAA gives a list of all the search terms where their “approved” thing should show up first, they work out some kind of bulk rate for all those ads, and they’re the top results.

I mean it still won’t do anything, but it’ll at least prove that Google isn’t to blame for piracy, as people will just skip the crap at the top (I know I just automatically scan to where the real results are on any search engine) and then click on what they were looking for anyway.

Even if it meant going to lower on the page, page 2, 3, or 4, people would just either use another engine that’s not bogged down by this crap or auto-skip half a page or use a GM script to auto go to page 2, 3, or 4 of all search results.

robin (profile) says:

They misunderstand how Google works

…the results top Google because those are the sites people visit…

+1

Here’s an idea for a great article for Mike, a sort of Search Results Primer for the Content Distributors (RIAA, MPAA):

The algorithms rank stuff based on how people react to a proffered link: the more clicks, the higher in the list it goes. Which is a simple description, as there’s about, AFAIK, over 137 signals Google calculates in ranking a link.

Combine that with Mike’s thesis that the offered link suggestions are an editorial decision, and you’ve got a well-researched article telling the dinosaurs to go stuff it!

bob says:

Horsemanure!

” In fact, if you do searches for various tracks or movies, you’ll almost always find legitimate results at the top already.”

Oh really? When I search for “download stephen king”, the top link is from torrentz.au. PirateBay and torrentreactor are in the top ten. Amazon, fictionwise, Barnes and Nobel etc are nowhere to be seen. The author’s own site is number two and that’s one of the few legit sites in the top.

The same is often true for many other works of art. Type in “download act of valor” and you get filestube and torrents.net. But then it’s only in theaters. You actually get more torrent sites if you type in a new DVD release like “download hugo.” I see places like isohunt and– a new one for me– a YouTube video that describes how to go to HollywoodMoviez.com.

It would be more accurate to say that occasionally Google mixes in legit links when you go out of your way to search for terms like “Buy Hugo”. Otherwise

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

“The purpose of a search engine is to search for WHAT THE USER IS LOOKING FOR, not what some third party wants the user to find.”

If the user is looking for something illegal, like child porn (produced by child abuse by definition) or information on how to murder DannyB, I would hope you and Google see the need for NOT giving “WHAT THE USER IS LOOKING FOR.”

But you just want to steal someone else’s art (or porn which might be art)?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

They misunderstand how Google works

The algorithms rank stuff based on how people react to a proffered link: the more clicks, the higher in the list it goes. Which is a simple description, as there’s about, AFAIK, over 137 signals Google calculates in ranking a link.

Does google weight actual clickthroughs so highly now? Because Google can’t tell the clickthroughs for lots of people (such as myself) I thought that it was still the number of links to the site, weighted by the linker’s reputation, that was still the predominate factor.

Anonymous Coward says:

“..legacy entertainment industry’s..” You mean the LEGITIMATE entertainment industry? Everytime I hear you say legacy, it makes me think of elite schools, where if your father/mother was a student you are called a “legacy”. Companies aren’t part of the entertainment industry at all if they aren’t CREATING content. If a company is in the business of streaming or allowing for download someone else’s content they are part of the distribution industry. So by “legacy entertainment industry” I assume you are talking about the content creation companies, not the distribution companies.

Your arguments about the RIAA and the MPAA not having a horse in the race are legitimate. Instead the individual rights holders should be informing Google when the search results are pointing to illegal downloads. I am not sure why the RIAA and the MPAA believe that they have a stake in the matter, though I assume that the member companies asked the industry organizations to act on their behalf.

I still haven’t figured out why the entertainment industry hasn’t resorted to gorilla warfare against the pirate communities. They could employ thousands of computers to serve up bogus pirated files with the same signature as the legitimate copies and watch as the targetted pirate sites whither and fade from existence. Hell they could even hire hackers to break the pirate sites. You can’t sue a company for stopping your company from performing illegal activities.

Anonymous Coward says:

it must be easy to do. Vaizey in the UK says so, so it must be true! thick fucker hasn’t got a clue! gets TPB website ruled as infringing and must be blocked over some ‘illegal content’ and takes down 1,000s of legitimate files that legitimate artists have made available for free, to whoever wants them, at the same time. some sense in that, i dont think. when you know nothing about a subject, why try to tell a person that does know about it how to do it? you end up looking even more stupid than you did to start with. and like the article says, where do you stop? eventually, it goes full circle.

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

“Google should just block everything, since anything can be used to perform an illegal activity”

Google “False Dichotomy”

This was George Bush’s favorite BAD argument. You are either with us or against us. Are you so young that you don’t remember George Bush? I suggest staying in school and spending less time on the computer – actually I think it was “computer addict” with same bad argument (block all online sales) before you.

I hate to tell you kids and George Bush, but it’s not an all or nothing world.

Machin Shin (profile) says:

Re:

I guess you missed what happened to Limewire. I don’t think they ever claimed responsibility but most people left Limewire after it was contaminated with trash. Most songs were 30sec loops from song or viruses. People have tried many different things like that to fight against pirates. You forget though that the pirate community is kind of closely knit with the hacking community. Fighting them face to face on their turf is not going to get you much.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re:

> They could employ thousands of computers to serve up bogus
> pirated files with the same signature as the legitimate copies

You must not understand how cryptographic hash functions work.

It is not possible to construct a file that has a given hash.

It is easy to compute the hash of any file.

But you cannot concoct or manipulate a file to end up having a desired hash value.

(OK, there are some weaknesses in the MD5 function where two files having the same prefix can end up with the same hash — but you would need some part of the legitimate file to be the prefix of the bogus file, thus infringing your own copyright and causing a rip in the fabric of spacetime that makes the RIAA/MPAA disappear in a puff of greasy black smoke.)

Anonymous Coward says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

And the purpose of law enforcement is to track down people that do illegal things and prosecute them.

If someone were to walk into a police station and start yelling queries at the police about how to build a tesla coil I would hope they’d stare blankly at them and politely ask them to leave, since responding to such requests isn’t their job.

But you just want to deputize Google. Which actually sounds pretty bad ass when you put it that way.

John Doe says:

google - I don't think you understand what a law is or ethics

“The RIAA/MPAA say that a business cannot be forced to operate in a way it does not want to.

So why are they telling Google how it should operate?”

The LAW, hopefully decided in a democracy, tells everyone and every company how to operate.

The LAW tells RIAA/MPAA/all artists that the copyrights expire after so many years and that you can share your book/DVD with others but NOT make unlimited digital copies.

The law tells me that I can’t murder DannyP, or tell someone else how to get to DannyP to murder him (it’s an accessory to murder) I would hope that Google would not give anyone instructions on how to build a suicide vest or Danny’s private schedule so they could murder him.

In addition to doing the legal minimum, not murdering Danny, I would hope that companies would ethically do more, just as I would if I saw someone walking angerly with a shotgun to Danny’s house, I would call 911 even if I had no legal obligation.

I would even call 911 if they were just breaking into Danny’s house – but I get the impression that Danny is the one breaking into other people’s house to “steal” “art/porn.”

John Doe says:

If you ask me for directions - to an illegal activity - just say no

If you are a “law abiding” taxi driver and a customer asks you for directions to an illegal whorehouse, you don’t lie, you say “legally I can’t give out directions to any illegal activity or knowingly drive people to illegal activities.”

If you had Christian ethics, you could also say, “I don’t give out directions to whorehouses,” even if it is legal to.

And if someone asks for directions to a whorehouse with underage girls, you give his picture to the cops.

Only scummy taxi-drivers and Google give directions to illegal activities and profit from it.

Anonymous Coward says:

the AC who posted about Google selling advertising on the tops spots

You just solved the problem – no regulations or other legislation required.

The MPAA and RIAA can just buy Google ads so that they show up for the search terms they want.

As others have posted – Google returns results based on a proprietary algorithm with an eye toward giving the user the most relevant results. Legislating that they must change their core business to make it much less useful because the results don’t support your business to the maximum degree is an overreach. Especially when there is an alternative. Pay for ads for the top slots.

Benjo (profile) says:

google - I don't think you understand what a law is or ethics

Wouldn’t you rather law enforcement have the tools to quickly find all this art/porn to make it easier for them to find/prosecute them? Google/facebook are probably 2 of the FBI’s most used tools. You aren’t anti law-enforcement are you?

And don’t kid yourself. These laws were written by lobby groups, who in no way represent the interests of the people, as in a democracy.

Gwiz (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

If the user is looking for something illegal, like child porn (produced by child abuse by definition) or information on how to murder DannyB, I would hope you and Google see the need for NOT giving “WHAT THE USER IS LOOKING FOR.”

If you want to go back to being spoon fed all your information by a nanny state, just turn on your television.

As for me, I prefer to have all the possible information available, so I can make informed and intelligent decisions. It’s why I run a YaCy node from my personal computer.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

If you ask me for directions - to an illegal activity - just say no

Google is not a taxi driver, it is more similar to a phone book. Further, the allegedly illegal sites are operating under a level of misdirection, at least from an algorithmic view point. No site tells Google it is illegal.

The person isn’t asking for directions to the brothel, they’re asking directions to the house of earthly delights. The algorithm may seem a little naive compared to a human in this regard, but you also can’t go around shutting down places just because their name might be a little suggestive.

Also, the ethical argument is debatable. It is more on the level of a vegetarian working for the publisher of a phone book deciding not to refuse to include directions to the local butcher’s shop. After all, if they did, they’d get fired.

Anonymous Coward says:

If you ask me for directions - to an illegal activity - just say no

Please tell me you are not retarded enough to be comparing google search returns with a face to face conversation between two people. You can’t compare the two in any way shape or form since search returns are based on a computer algorithm and have only limited ability to interpret the information it acquires in comparison to a human looking at the same page.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

google - I don't think you understand what a law is or ethics

The law of a country should not dictate terms of operation. That has been tried and found to fail, just ask the USSR. The law exists to prevent people from harming others by defining what constitutes harmful actions and providing recourse for those harmed and/or against those committing the actions.

That said, what constitutes harm must be carefully considered and should not extend far beyond the basic and obvious. Extrapolated and predicted harm opens up the system to abuse (see RIAA damages sought from P2P users).

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

You misunderstood my, the usual, argument.

It’s not either support child porn or bad internet regulations, which would be a false dichotomy.

It’s either you say anything goes including child porn and how to build suicide vests or the government or responsible companies or responsible taxi drivers just say NO to most requests for child porn, child prostitution, or suicide vests.

Of course there has always been and likely always will be child porn, child prostitution, suicide vests, theft and so on, but taxi drivers and Google and you don’t have to be part of it or make it easier.

Of course there are always exceptions. A police officer asking a taxi driver if he has seen any under-age hookers is not the same as telling some drunk, creepy looking guy for young teenage hookers.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

Re:

1) That’s a blacklist, and it clearly isn’t having the desired effect (the activity continues, just on different sites). A blacklist is easier to implement, so long as it remains relatively short.

2) The Government doesn’t set a precedent for every other industry to make similar demands, no matter how much you’d like to use it that way. Giving that power to the RIAA would open those flood gates.

John Doe says:

If you ask me for directions - to an illegal activity - just say no

“Retard” used as an insult is the new N word.

“Retards” now called developmentally disadvantaged people who usually are (not smart enough) to do evil things.

I would suggest spending more time reading the news and more time in school, instead of listening to bloggers who tell you it’s OK to copy/steal.

Even Obama’s Chief of Staff had to apologize for using retard as an insult.
http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/politics/Emanuel-Makes-a-Private-Apology-for-Retard-Insult-83443812.html

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

I would strongly suggest that you stop by your school’s mental health office since you get some enjoyment out of telling, jokingly or not, other people to commit suicide (and murder but I’ll give you credit for not being bright enough to know that suicide vests are used for murder.)

hfbs (profile) says:

Re:

Well done, you googled something.

However, I was pointing out how few (i.e. zero) legal and legitimate alternatives there are by pretending to search on the MPAA/RIAAs search engine. As of yet, there are no legal downloadable copies of Game Of Shadows, even though it came out in cinemas last year (release windows and all that).

If MPAA/RIAA introduced their own search engine right this very second, there would be no results for Game Of Shadows. That’s my entire point.

I would like to watch Game Of Shadows, as I enjoyed the first film. However, I didn’t catch it in the cinema (possibly due to marketing failure as I didn’t even know a sequel had been made). What’s my legal choices? A Telesync, CamRip or… nothing.

Have I made my point clear enough yet?

MrWilson says:

Re:

The problem is that song and movie titles aren’t copyrightable and may be used by multiple parties to refer to multiple works of art.

Who decides who gets top billing between results for searches that include Ocean’s Eleven (1960) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001)? The obvious answer is, “the most popular one.” Oh wait, that’s how it already works, so we don’t even need to change it!

Benjo (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

So would you have people manually filtering these sites (prone to all sorts of problems) or an algorithm (which would likely block TD for “child porn”)? Who would write that algorithm? The government (prone to all sorts of problems) or a 3rd party?

Are you saying that information on child porn / suicide vests / meth labs / illegal activities should not be on the internet? How would you design these filters to work even remotely efficiently without censoring somebodies free speech? If you accidentally got blocked, would you have to apply to google to get unblocked, which would then require a review, and quite possibly lawyers.

Lets stop inventing useless work / industries and let law enforcement do their jobs. Unless you think that the current google is enabling child pornographers and suicide bombers (and thieves? you threw in theft with some other pretty outrageous crimes), in which case most people aren’t going to take your complaints seriously. maybe relevant quote:

The internet doesn’t kill people. People kill people.

chelleliberty (profile) says:

but... but...

I think certain people here are demonstrating that they have very little idea what goes into making a search engine…

It’s not like Mr. Google, the expert of searchology, gets the users’ requests for what they want, then intelligently determines what the user means, looks at all the relevant pages, decides whether or not the pages actually match the meaning of what the user was searching for, then at some point judges the content and has the option to go “Oh, my! This site is clearly offering something that is illegal under current U.S. (or other) jurisdiction, and I will not be a party to that, oh ho ho!”

Nope, in fact simply making sure the results even match the intended query is practically impossible. Add on checking whether something is the same name but different content, or whether the content is legitimately provided via some other method, or for the thousand other reasons it may *not* be illegitimate, or whether the site is in a jurisdiction where the copyright of the work does not apply, or whether the link contains material under fair use, etc. and you’ve now just made the imagined search many orders of magnitude more difficult. (i.e. impossible)

Alternatively, if you can simply describe how this search engine works, algorithmically, just do so and make a zillion dollars doing it, because your algorithm surpasses any algorithm heretofore ever designed in the history of algorithms, and it’s worth will far far exceed the value of simply being able to keep would-be infringers from infringing copyright.

Seriously, if Google (or anyone else) could write the search engine that some of you desire, then believe me they would do it because it would represent a new age in the development of natural language processing and artificial intelligence, and they would be more than happy to bring about the dawning of this new age. (Not to mention the mountains of cash…)

At best, rough approximations of these types of algorithms could be implemented piecemeal, a bit at a time, and always including too much while excluding too much. Searching for public domain images of the Madonna would result in no matches, and lots of hits for things people didn’t want, to use a previously cited example… And this goes on forever, what about searches for creed?

Or, alternatively they could come up with some sort of system where particular pages could be blacklisted, perhaps by actual people who could claim copyright on the material on the pages, and file actions against anyone who puts up pages infringing on that copyright, say, a ‘takedown notice’. Oh, wait…

And need I mention, many people are already filing their takedowns with nothing more than a keyword searching bot, and hitting tons and tons of material for which they do not have a right to do so, and for which no real punitive measures are available that do not cost more to those affected than the potential recompense. The system is already completely incentivized towards those who file them, and gives search providers no incentives to fight them. So, basically, the best possible system to achieve whatever those who want copyright easy to enforce on the Net *ALREADY* have the best possible way to do so.

And, okay, I did leave out one other alternative: just get rid of the search engines as we know them altogether: since there may be individuals out there intending to infringe no matter what, and since no system that is currently in existence (or will likely be in the foreseeable future) with the requisite capabilities in AI, then there is no way to prevent their results from cropping up on search engines. So, let’s just out with the whole lot of ’em!

No, I got it: all web addresses one wishes to submit to a search index must be provided, in advance, in triplicate, double spaced, with glossy photographs of all the content and a notarized statement to the effect that the page will not be changed without advance notice and re-submission to the engines, to be sent to all copyright holders in the world for advance permission to post that content on the web! Woo! See, I just saved us from the scourge of possible infringement and it only took completely disabling the primary way the web manages to hook users up with the content (infringing or no) that they are searching for!

:rolleyes:

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work

the answer to the question of why Google hasn’t MADE people look for what the MPAA is offering to sell to people misses the point again.

It’s not Google’s (or Yahoo’s or Bings) job to MAKE people look for anything. Their job is to answer the search terms. And if those search terms are Jeremy Lyman download free then that’s what will rise to the top because that’s what most closely matches the search term.

Now if you want something else, type in a different search term. Then it will be ranked on popularity something each search engine guards jealously as trade secrets.

Spiders or tagging or web 2.anything have nothing at all to do with it.

If you don’t like it build your own search engine!

Idwal (profile) says:

Re:

That’s a spectacular idea. They could work with AT&T to develop a suite of search plans.

50 Searches $10*
100 Searches $18*
2000 Searches $65*
Unlimited** Searches $65
Family Plan $135

*Plus $0.35 per search above your plan
**5000 Searches, Top 20 Sites only
Family Plan includes 500 searches, and additional search at the rate of $0.25 each, and includes no*** porn.

***We accept no liability for porn found in a family plan search. Se our definition of porn at brokenlink.con.

(In all cases, you agree not to let anyone under the age of 18 use our search service.)

Those are definitely options that the public doesn’t have now. They’ll love it!

Bergman (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

Searching for “Content-Name-Here free download” can lead a searcher to a bootleg copy. But it can also lead the searcher to the artist’s own site, where the artist releases that one thing as a free teaser to entice a consumer to buy the rest of whatever.

One is illegal in the U.S. (but might not be illegal where the site actually is) and the other is not illegal anywhere. But there is literally no way for a search engine algorithm to tell the difference.

If the artist’s brother put the teaser item on the artist’s site without permission, that would be an illegal download, but how would a search engine know that?

The only way to be sure that no illegal content is ever found would be to block all content. Which would put Google out of business (it would also put telephone directories and in a few cases might put recording labels out of business too).

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

“Are you saying that information on child porn… should not be on the internet?”

INFORMATION on child porn is not illegal; The child porn itself is illegal online or offline.

Since Google appears “unable” (read unwilling) to do it themselves, there are plenty of nonprofit organizations that will tell you which sites are have the illegal pictures on them and which sites are academic studies of child porn.

Likewise, Google appears too incompetent (read unwilling) to tell which sites traffic in IP theft.

Likewise, information on murders in not always illegal, but if I give you information on how to murder Danny, knowing that you intend to attack him, it’s accessory to murder.

Just as I can’t be “willfully blind” and ignore that someone is carrying a sawed-off shotgun and muttering “kill that bastard” when I give him Danny’s address, Google can’t be blind when someone searches on the latest movie free download. Of course people who really want an illegal download will eventually find it or give up trying, just as the mad person with a sawed off shotgun may eventually find Danny without my help.

Saying the murder may have found Danny without my help, would not get me off of being an accessory to murder, and it would make me scum-like-Google.

Cowardly Anonymous says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

Care to list/link to the non-profit organizations so we can analyze their methods of compilation?

Unless they are using an algorithm and not getting false positives their listings simply don’t apply to the situation Google would face in trying to implement such a filter (against either of the things you claim them to be unwilling to address).

Google’s process must be automated, as there is no way to support individual review of every single website by a human being. No known algorithm is capable of distinguishing the age of a person in a photo, nor sorting complicated legal questions based solely on a link text and address.

In fact, I can confidently say that such an algorithm would require resources outside of the capabilities of any modern computer.

So, let us put that analogy into the proper context. When the man came in, he wasn’t muttering anything under his breath, he was thinking it. Also, he left the shotgun in the car. Finally, you are not at your home, but rather an agent in an information booth at the train station and Danny’s address has been posted as public.

How do you know Danny didn’t make the info public himself to facilitate a meetup of some sort? How can you tell that it is a murderer before you?

You make it sound so simple.

Karl (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

It’s either you say anything goes including child porn and how to build suicide vests or the government or responsible companies or responsible taxi drivers just say NO to most requests for child porn, child prostitution, or suicide vests.

Now, THAT is one false dichotomy.

It’s at this point that I’m obliged to point out that SOPA-style laws were declared unlawful prior restraint when they were targeted to child pornography. (CDT v. Pappert.)

Also, the “taxi driver” analogy is really off the mark. A better analogy would be for NOW to demand that AT&T stop service to people who pay for phone sex.

Anonymous Coward says:

Horsemanure!

Google only cares that the link is relevant to the search performed. They really couldn’t care less about what content the link takes you to. The more popular the link, the more relevant it is and thus more likely to be what the user is looking for. The concept is that simple. Google’s engine is designed to give people what they WANT which is why they are successful and will continue to be successful. Contrast that with the Content Cartels that in their arrogance insult and abuse their customers instead of listening to them. There is no wonder why their business models are dying.

John Doe says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

“It’s at this point that I’m obliged to point out that SOPA-style laws were declared unlawful prior restraint when they were targeted to child pornography.”

I hate to tell you, but it’s unlawful to use prior restraint for any crime before it’s committed.

We can’t use prior restraint against someone who intends to murder Danny – sorry Danny – unless he committed some other crime such as threatening Danny carrying an illegal handgun or starting a conspiracy with an act with a second person to kill Danny.

Just because one can’t use prior restraint against Danny’s murderer, does not mean murder is legal. Once Danny is dead, the legal system will be happy to take action, both criminal and civil.

Lauriel (profile) says:

Horsemanure!

However, if you Google “Act of Valor”, you get nothing but legal sites, and review sites/info sites. Therefore the problem in that search term must be the word “download”. Imagine how many legal results would be returned if only there were an actual legal download to be found?

The same if you search “Hugo”. The movie even tops sites like Hugo Boss, the Hugo awards, and others. Ditto with “Hugo DVD”. Again, how many legal search results would be at the top if there were any legal downloads on the net?

The problem isn’t Google’s search algorithm. It is a simple lack of product on the market. Note that you didn’t search for “illegal download”? Only “download”. If there are simply no legal offerings, the only one that can possibly be returned is an illegal one, as the algorithm (not a person) tries to match the best solution (not a suggestion) to your request.

If no one wanted downloads, there would be no issue with the search term. Solution: Give customers a legal option!!

PaulT (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

Child porn is the new Godwin, and it makes you look like an idiot by mentioning it. Just saying.

Anyway, so what? If people want to look for CP and Google gives them that result, have at it. Law enforcement can use the same methods to track the same sites, and actually go after the people doing such thing. Hiding the sites doesn’t make the abuse go away.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re:

Sadly, I tried it and I didn’t see any page not related to the singer until the 3rd page.

But, so what? She will become less relevant in time, and naturally drop down the results. Her label will probably want to try to sell music until the end of time if they can, even at the expense of existing and future alternative uses of the word. I don’t see why Google should be forced to game the results in their favour, now or in the future.

PaulT (profile) says:

the AC who posted about Google selling advertising on the tops spots

Which, as we’ve seen time and time again, is the problem. The **AAs don’t simply want things to work in their favour, they want it to be forced to be so with no effort, expense or even risk on their part. Since no such solution exists, they keep tilting at windmills while their potential customers just find other routes.

PaulT (profile) says:

If you ask me for directions - to an illegal activity - just say no

So, algorithms are meant to be moral now?

“If you had Christian ethics, you could also say, “I don’t give out directions to whorehouses,” even if it is legal to.”

Typical fundamentalist “Christian”, not only trying to impose your own morals on other by omitting directions, but also wishing to force 3rd parties (Google) to do the same.

If it’s legal, who gives a flying f*ck what you think? Nobody’s obliged to do what you want them to do. Even in your flawed analogy, the guy looking for the whorehouse will still find it, even if you refused to tell him.

JarHead says:

Horsemanure!

I might be wrong, but it seems in order for Google search to give it’s user “more relevant” results, from my observations, it also consider the user’s PAST searches and which link(s) from those searches actually clicked, especially if the user is logged in.

So, if you done many searches with “download” and/or “free” keywords in the past, it is more likely the next search will “assume” you’ve included those keywords and push those sites which will be found by using them to the top, even if you omit the keywords.

JarHead says:

google - I don't think you understand what a law is or ethics

In order to effectively create, one must know how to effectively destroy

If I’m DannyP, and I suspect someone is trying to kill me (even if it’s an imagined threat), I sure h**l want to know every way how someone may murder someone, for my own protection. And I sure hope my nemesis read the same source and act on it, so at least I know what to expect.

WTH, I might want to know it just for fun (so I can enjoy more those detective novel/movies, for example).

Knowledge is knowledge, the person using it make it good or evil (IF there’s such thing as good/evil).

PaulT (profile) says:

Horsemanure!

Wow, really? You don’t get Amazon and B&N links when searching for book downloads, when they don’t have an official Australian presence? You get more illegal options than legal ones when searching for downloads for a movie that’s not been released for download yet? I’m shocked, truly.

Funnily enough, when I search “download hugo”, the first result I get is the 1990 videogame.

“It would be more accurate to say that occasionally Google mixes in legit links when you go out of your way to search for terms like “Buy Hugo”

Funny, if I switch to the AUS iTunes store and search for Hugo, it doesn’t appear there either although I do get links for other movies. Does that mean Apple are in on the conspiracy as well? Or does it just mean that the corporates you defend just haven’t opted to offer you a legal option yet?

Cowardly Anonymous says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

Prior restraint refers to the situation where someone feels obligated to avoid speaking on certain topics for fear of legal action against them. It is in conflict with the spirit of the First Amendment of the constitution and overly zealous copyright raises prior restraint of speech issues.

Laws against murder, on the other hand, don’t conflict with any First Amendment provisions and thus conspiracy to commit murder can be and is illegal.

In other words, you clearly don’t understand the meaning of prior restraint.

chelleliberty (profile) says:

Google can do whatever-it-wants if it wants

Sure, because if they can tweak their algorithm to avoid sites based on a single criteria (those that appear frequently on services that report shady sites) then they can magically create an AI to do whatever they want (automagically send any infringing work to the bottom of the heap)?!

If you think it’s so easy, how about just give us an idea of the algorithm that you think could work? Again, don’t forget they have to address infringing works, fair use, similarly titled works, etc. as desribed in my post above.

The DecorMyEyes story is a red herring: are you really saying you think that detecting all (or even most) infringing sites, without incorrectly punishing other non-infringing sites is as simple as de-ranking sites based upon the particular websites that link to them?

Or, for that matter, that *that* is even particularly challenging? Here, some pseudeocode: “if (badsitereportersites.containsmorereportsthan(possiblesearchresults.current, 100)) then possiblesearchresults.current.remove()”. Done.

Ok, now you: what’s your suggestion for solving the ‘detect whether site infringes’ problem?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re:

I agree look at the product they offer. THEY don’t make it. The artists do. They just profit from it and in the case of the Record Labels, THEY don’t even pay for it. They make the artist do that too. And as they are obviously mathematically challenged, God only knows what they would come up with when trying to alter a mathematical algorithm.

Anonymous Coward says:

Horsemanure!

BTW how do you KNOW that the links that were returned actually contained infringing content? Did you actually download them to check? And if you did, how do you know that they are infringing? Are you automatically blessed with knowing all details that all copyright holders have with all people that could be offering a link via some strange psychic power that no one else has?

Karl (profile) says:

That's how search engines already work - unless you want child porn or how to kill Danny

I hate to tell you, but it’s unlawful to use prior restraint for any crime before it’s committed.

I’m not exactly sure how to respond to that… mostly because it has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with CDT v. Pappert, or why the Pennsylvania anti-child-pornography law was an unconstitutional prior restraint of speech.

Perhaps you haven’t read the court’s ruling. That’s understandable. Let me quote the relevant parts. It’s a long quote, but you really should read the whole thing.

In February of 2002, Pennsylvania enacted the Internet Child Pornography Act, 18 Pa. Cons.Stat. ?? 7621-7630, (“the Act”). The Act requires an Internet Service Provider (“ISP”) to remove or disable access to child pornography items “residing on or accessible through its service” after notification by the Pennsylvania Attorney General. It is the first attempt by a state to impose criminal liability on an ISP which merely provides access to child pornography through its network and has no direct relationship with the source of the content. […]

Based on the evidence presented by the parties at trial, the Court concludes that, with the current state of technology, the Act cannot be implemented without excessive blocking of innocent speech in violation of the First Amendment. In addition, the procedures provided by the Act are insufficient to justify the prior restraint of material protected by the First Amendment and, given the current design of the Internet, the Act is unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause because of its affect on interstate commerce. […]

The two filtering methods used by the ISPs to comply with the Informal Notices and the court order–IP filtering and DNS filtering–both resulted in overblocking. IP filtering blocks all web sites at an IP address and, given the prevalence of shared IP addresses, the implementation of this method results in blocking of a significant number of sites not related to the alleged child pornography. […]

The Act and Informal Notice process are not prior restraints in the traditional sense. They do not prevent speech from reaching the market place but remove material already available on the Internet from circulation. Alexander v. United States (1993) (“The term ‘prior restraint’ describes orders forbidding certain communications that are issued before the communications occur.”) However, they are administrative prior restraints as that term has been interpreted by the Supreme Court. According to the Court, “only a judicial determination in an adversary proceeding ensures the necessary sensitivity to freedom of expression, only a procedure requiring a judicial determination suffices to impose a valid final restraint.” Freedman v. Maryland (1965). Thus, if material protected by the First Amendment is removed from circulation without these procedural protections, the seizure is invalid as a prior restraint.

The Court used the term to describe a Rhode Island Commission’s practice of sending letters to book distributors that asked the distributors to remove books from circulation in Bantam Books v. Sullivan (1963) and a procedure that allowed courts to order pre-trial seizure of films alleged to be obscene in Fort Wayne Books, Inc. v. Indiana (1989).

In Bantam Books, the Court ruled on a regulatory scheme implemented by the state of Rhode Island. The state created the Rhode Island Commission to Encourage Morality in Youth, and this commission sent book distributors letters informing them that books they were distributing were “objectionable” and asking them to “cooperate” by removing this material from book stores. The letters also stated that “the Attorney General will act for us in the case of non-compliance.” In response, plaintiffs stopped further circulation of copies and “instructed field men to visit retailers and to pick up all unsold copies.” Although these materials were already in circulation, the Court referred to this system as a “prior administrative restraint” and ruled it was unconstitutional because there was not “an almost immediate judicial determination of the validity of the restraint” and the publisher or distributor was not entitled to notice and a hearing.

In Fort Wayne Books v. Indiana, the Court held that a finding of probable cause by a state court was not sufficient to allow seizure of material “presumptively protected by the First Amendment.” “While a single copy of a book or film may be seized and retained for evidentiary purposes based on a finding of probable cause, the publication may not be taken out of circulation completely until there has been a determination of obscenity after an adversary hearing.” Like Bantam Books, the materials in Fort Wayne were already in circulation. They were removed from circulation by a state court order. According to the Court, “our cases firmly hold that mere probable cause to believe a legal violation has transpired is not adequate to remove books or films from circulation.”

Based on the decision in Bantam Books and Fort Wayne Books, this Court concludes the procedural protections provided by the Act are inadequate. These cases require a court to make a final determination that material is child pornography after an adversary hearing before the material is completely removed from circulation. […]

Defendant misses the mark when he focuses on the fact that criminal liability will not be imposed until after a criminal trial. The Court’s First Amendment analysis must focus on when speech is suppressed and, under the Act, speech is suppressed when the court order is issued. Under the First Amendment, more procedures are necessary before speech can be suppressed than are required before an individual can be arrested. Although evidence of probable cause is sufficient to make an arrest, Fort Wayne holds that a finding of probable cause is not sufficient to completely remove a publication from circulation. As explained by the Seventh Circuit, “[w]hile at first glance it may seem odd to require more judicial protection for the liberty of one’s books than for one’s body, the distinction reflects this country’s great concern with the chilling effect on protected speech brought on by a government seizure.” United States v. Moore (7th Cir.2000). […]

For the foregoing reasons, plaintiffs’ Motion for Declaratory Relief and Preliminary and Permanent Injunctive Relief is granted. Pennsylvania’s Internet Child Pornography Act and the Informal Notice process used by defendant to implement the Act are declared unconstitutional. Defendant is enjoined from taking any action against an ISP for failing to comply with an Informal Notice or court order under the Act. The ISPs which blocked web sites pursuant to Informal Notices and, with respect to WorldCom, a court order shall promptly remove the blocks.

[Citations ommitted; emphasis mine.]

Karl (profile) says:

Re:

I still haven’t figured out why the entertainment industry hasn’t resorted to gorilla warfare against the pirate communities.

As an interesting side note: They have.

MPAA Caught Uploading Fake Torrents
Exclusive: I Was a Hacker for the MPAA
Madonna swears at music pirates

And I’ve been watching, but I haven’t seen “the targetted pirate sites whither and fade from existence.”

Renee Marie Jones says:

Solution to the RIAA and MPAA's search problems

The solution is easy, we just obey the law. If the law were obeyed, every officer of the RIAA and MPAA would be in jail for perjury on a thousands counts each. With all of the complainers in jail, Google can just get on with it’s job.

Copyright is an experiment that failed. It serves no one but lazy rent-seeking thugs. If I want to get paid this week, I have to work this week. It is morally wrong to say that a musician or writer gets to get paid for one hundred years for something they did long ago. It is just wrong.

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