British Recording Industry Thinks 'Right To Be Forgotten' Proves Google Can Stop Piracy

from the a-tale-of-two-web-forms dept

As the discussion over the EU’s decision to force Google to uphold a “right to be forgotten” continues, various industry heads have begun to weigh in on the subject, pointing to this as evidence that Google could do more to combat piracy.

This, of course, is exactly the expected reaction. With every obliging move, search engines such as Google move themselves further and further away from providing “agnostic” search results. But what these entities are seeking goes much further than web forms. They still think Google should be able to de-list entire sites at the behest of any number of self-interested parties.

A recent article at the Guardian contains a number of recording industry leaders pointing in the direction of Google’s “right to forget” compliance as an admission by the search engine giant that it has the power to (almost singlehandedly) kill off “pirate” sites. There’s some confusion as to what Google actually does expressed here, although the worst of it seems to be relegated to the headline itself: “If Google can get rid of personal data, why can’t it purge the pirates?

The lede handles the subject much more accurately before the head of Britain’s recording industry attempts to turn this into another reason why Google isn’t doing enough to protect his interests.

Google’s decision to allow users to easily de-list certain personal information from search results has infuriated a film and music industry that argues the internet giant should act as decisively to help squash digital piracy.

After laying down the facts, the rest is filled with badly drawn conclusions.

Critics say that Google drags its feet over carrying out measures such as stripping pirate websites from its search results, yet the move to allow users the “right to be forgotten” proves it can take serious action if it is forced.

“It’s ‘Don’t be Evil’ 101,” says Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the music industry’s trade body, the BPI. “The principle at stake here is when you know someone is acting illegally, you shouldn’t continue helping them by sending them business.”

There are several things wrong with Taylor’s assertions. To begin with, Google “sends” no one any business. Google returns search results. Critics often claim that search results for content return tons of illicit results within the first few pages, but in order to make this happen, you have to include the sort of terms that someone looking to pirate might use. With enough intent, you can wring anything out of a search engine. This is not a problem that needs to be “solved” by the search engine.

The industry’s own preferred referral services are, if anything, worse than the industry’s skewed perception of Google’s search results. As we pointed out a few weeks ago, the combined force of the UK’s movie and television industry has resulted in a website that can’t even locate legitimate purchase options for highly sought after content, while a simple search at Amazon will provide plenty of DVD and streaming options.

While critics may be right that Google can do certain things if “forced” to by government bodies, is this really the sort of goal they should be encouraged to pursue? Using the government to force one industry to cater to another industry’s whims? The recording and motion picture industries seem to feel they should be able to de-list entire sites, something Google isn’t allowing with its “right to forget” web form, just as it isn’t allowing it with its DMCA takedown request form. Taylor feels this is wrong and that his industry should be allowed to de-list entire sites, including content that doesn’t belong to anyone under its purview, simply by pushing a couple of buttons.

Geoff Taylor has more to add to this:

Dealing with Google is often a fraught process, Taylor adds, and the illegal websites reappear in the same, or a slightly different, guise almost immediately after they are taken down.

Presumably, Taylor means URL addresses. Once again, Google doesn’t have the power (nor should it) to “take down” websites. Again, the URL is de-listed and won’t appear in search results. In order for the content to be removed, a takedown request must be submitted to the site hosting the content. People like Taylor want to lay the problem at Google’s feet simply because Google has given them one of the easiest and most user-friendly ways to submit takedown requests. Rather than make an effort, the industry wants Google — a search engine — to do the legwork for it. And now it wants entire sites de-listed.

“We have been calling for a long time for Google in particular to be more proactive in dealing with the issue of illegal content in its search results,” says Taylor.

Google is not in the business of policing the internet for infringing content. That job belongs to the rights holders. How Taylor arrives at this misconception is beyond me, but he’s far from the only industry head calling for Google to save them from problems they ignored for far too long.

How Taylor decides a new web form (“right to forget”) signals greater capabilities than a pre-existing web form (the DMCA takedown) is also beyond me. Taylor is correct in his statement that Google’s search algorithm is far from neutral, but he fails to acknowledge that it’s been governments acting at the behest of industries that have made the most noise about the company’s failure to rewrite the code to the specifications of the RIAA, MPAA et al.

And for all that noise, there’s seemingly very little realization that pirates don’t really use search engines for piracy.

Just 13% of illegal downloaders use search engines, including Google, to access music sites, and 8% for film sites, according to snapshot research by Ofcom.

So, even if the industry gets its way, there will be little noticeable effect.

But the bottom line is this: the new “right to be forgotten” form is roughly interchangeable with the DMCA takedown form. Neither remove content. Both only de-list URLs. The content still exists, but anyone using Google won’t be able to find it… and that number represents only a small sliver of web users.

Somehow, these similar forms with similar results signal something much bigger to industry leaders like Geoff Taylor when, in fact, it should signal the exact opposite. Nothing has changed. Google will de-list specific URLs if given a legal reason to, whether it’s a EU directive or its own compliance with the DMCA in order to retain its safe harbors. The belief that this means Google can (and should) de-list entire sites and further screw around with its algorithm in order to make the recording (and motion picture) industry happy is simply delusional.

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Companies: bpi, google

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Comments on “British Recording Industry Thinks 'Right To Be Forgotten' Proves Google Can Stop Piracy”

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Richard (profile) says:

What Google can do

While critics may be right that Google can do certain things if “forced” to by government bodies,

They are wrong.

What Google can do (has done) is to pretend to follow a legal indtruction to a sufficient level to convince those who ordered them to do it (for now).
Of course if a few months they will discover that what Google has done is in practice less effective than it appeared at first (to a naive observer).

And of course if Google really succeeded ( a big if) then there are options such as Yacy (which no-one can issue orders to for technical reasons) waiting in the wings to take over.

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: The British Recording Industry is correct about this

Google can stop piracy just as effectively as Google can make the Internet forget about you.

( please note: removing something from google’s index does not make it disappear from teh intarwebs! Other terms and conditions may apply retroactively. Void where prohibited or not prohibited by law.)

ethorad (profile) says:

down the rabbit hole

So in the case where someone has an old court case they want forgotten google has to remove links to that old content.

However, how about a site like chillingeffects collating the right to be forgotten requests? Could google remove the link to the original material, but include a link to something commenting on the request – and thus reveal the old content?

Of course I guess someone could request that removal. Which would result in a link to another request on chillingeffects … ad infinitum

Here’s hoping server hard drives keep increasing exponentially …

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: down the rabbit hole

Or more – what if the link is a to a government website that specifically posts public information? Is Google supposed to remove all links to government websites?

Some local police departments post mug shots on Facebook of those they’ve arrested. Does Facebook have to come down to?

Oh wait! That’s not a bad idea!

Anonymous Coward says:

Can you have justice without due process?

This is what happens when you cut the legal system out of the loop and replace it with a system that punishes accusations and suppresses information based on people’s say so. First it’s the DMCA, then it’s three strikes and six strikes, then it’s removing links because of an imaginary “right to be forgotten”, and soon it will content as well. All of these have the same thing in common: administering “justice” without judicial involvement.

If it had an informercial, the motto for getting rid of content you don’t like in the age of the Internet would be “Set it, and forget It!”.

Anonymous Coward says:

I think the right-to-be-forgotten is ill conceived and a bad idea, but now that it’s in place, I think the record industry people have a point. If I, as an individual, have the right to shape my online identity through search index editing, why don’t copyright owners have similar powers? To be clear, I don’t think anybody should have that power, but if Google is going to go down this path (willingly or not), I think it’s hard to define what editing is acceptable.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“If I, as an individual, have the right to shape my online identity through search index editing, why don’t copyright owners have similar powers?”

What does “right to be forgotten” allow people to do with personal information that the DMCA doesn’t allow copyright holders to do with infringing copies?

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” If I, as an individual, have the right to shape my online identity through search index editing, why don’t copyright owners have similar powers?”

The whole point is that they do have that power, right now. What they want is beyond what the “right to be forgotten” gives. They want Google to actively seek out and suppress things rather than only doing it on request.

Richard (profile) says:

Don't be evil

“It’s ‘Don’t be Evil’ 101,” says Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the music industry’s trade body, the BPI. “The principle at stake here is when you know someone is acting illegally, you shouldn’t continue helping them by sending them business.”

No it isn’t – – surely “Don’t be Evil 101” would be the Sermon on the Mount which clearly enjoins us to be neutral in these circumstances

“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Matthew 5 -45

DannyB (profile) says:

Re: Google should comply..

Google should remove not only links to the movie, but Google should remove all mentions of the movie. If someone mentions the movie in a blog post, perhaps a good review, then that post will not be indexed.

Google should also help people to be forgotten. Good for privacy. But think of the disk space that could be saved and used for worthwhile purposes. Like remembering the accomplishments of people who have made a positive contribution to society.

Bt Garner (profile) says:

Comment 1: What if a story happens, where one person is vilified, and another person is praised? Why should the right of the vilified person rule over the praised person to have the story removed?

Comment 2: Maybe google just needs to serve up a taste of these trolls old medicine in the form of new terms of use, “By using our site, you agree to waive your right to be forgotten…” I know it wouldn’t hold any water in court, but still it’d be funny.

Anonymous Coward says:

‘even if the industry gets its way, there will be little noticeable effect’
There is a strong suspicion amongst many, although it is not particularly supprtedin reliable studies, that piracy increases sales (reliable studies do suggest a very minor positive effect and fall to support a negative effect on sales).
Perhaps the industry shares this suspicion, but cannot bring themselves to publicly acknowledge this and so continue with piracy fighting policies so long as the impact on piracy is negligible.
Then at they can be the brave soldiers fighting the desperate battle against piracy , whilst still enjoying the benefits.
It’s generally called having your cake and eating it too, and that is something the entertainment industry corporations have phenomenal experience of.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Their real target is not the piracy, but to kill of all of the competing content on the Internet that is not earning them money because it is self published etc. Its just they cannot do this directly, but they can make ‘mistakes’. The less effective the anti-piracy measures, the more control over the Internet they can demand.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

I don’t know what trying it again proves. If the spam filter flagged it the first time, it will probably flag it the second as well. You just have to do what I do when this happens: wait for someone to look at it and free it from the filter.

Calling this censorship makes you look foolish, by the way.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

Funny, I can read your paranoid drooling just fine. Obviously, your messages have been released from the spam filter, as often happens on the odd occasions where my posts accidentally get caught.

But, if it happens to you every time you post, there’s a reason for that – and no, it’s not because Mike is as obsessed with you as you are with him. Maybe if you stopped posting lies and idiocy to such a degree that the spam filter temporarily (and correctly) flags your IP as belonging to a spamming moron, you wouldn’t have this problem.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Re:

..and yet again, the self-proclaimed “creative” can’t string a sentence together without depending on lies, childish name calling and throwing a toddler tantrum. No wonder you never show any of your supposed creative work here. If it’s even half as laughable as your attempts to debate here, it’s worth less than what I scooped out of my cat’s litter tray this evening. No wonder you’re a failure.

jameshogg says:

It surely must make more sense for copyright holders to go after the source, namely the pirate websites themselves, instead of those linking to the source. Because that way it wouldn’t matter if Google links to the site: the site will be blocked anyway. And Google becomes an effective tool for the copyright holder in spotting where the pirate sites are located.

The reason why this approach is not taken is because there is a great deal of cowardliness with respect to not admitting that this is a lost cause. They can’t attack the sources because there are too many sources, also known as “I am Spartacus!”, also known as a comparison to prohibition and the war on drugs. So instead of admitting their failures, they scapegoat the search engines that do nothing more than mention what the pirate websites actually are, in a hope that all piracy woes will miraculously vanish. Such logic would also mean preventing the BBC from mentioning anything about the Pirate Bay whatsoever. Or listing the websites that have been blocked through court orders. This is another form of the “super-injunction”, which is something that quite rightly deserves hostility and ridicule in itself. You only need to look to Ryan Giggs to see how this idea is discredited.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Also, most pirate sites are not located in countries the copyright holders can affect. What’s illegal in one country is not illegal everywhere, but you can still access it from just about everywhere, courtesy of the internet.

Also, pirate web sites, in general, make virtually no money, so there’s hardly any money in it. It’s been well documented that removing piracy does little affect sales so it’s not a matter of money. It’s a matter of control, and the money that can be made by creating an imaginary problem (piracy!) so they can offer an imaginary service (copyright “protection”). Convince enough people you’re doing the “right thing” and they’ll pay you for it, whether or not it’s effective or necessary.

Anonymous Coward says:

So if a site contains the title of a movie/song then it can not show up in a search result?

There is a great difference between copyright infringement and the desire for an individual not appear in a search result.

Google seems to be going through great effort to follow the new rules? The rules say ANY search engine. How are the other search engines doing? Does this make the cost of being a new search engine startup so high there is no longer any business value?

Anonymous Coward says:

If I wanted to download a specific album or movie, Google would be the last place I would go. I’d go to the site that had deals with such and then search there. Google doesn’t get involved at all.

All this is a waste of time though. Know why? The music out there isn’t worth the bandwidth it takes to download. Maybe 2 movies out of an entire year are worth your time to watch. The rest are absolute money and time wasters. So what it comes down to is a total lack of interest in these products. Don’t care enough to spend the time to download them.

Here’s a clue…. Goggle ain’t gonna fix that.

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