Google Won't Recommend Most Popular Searches If It Thinks It Might Sorta Have Something To Do With Piracy

from the does-mp3-count? dept

In the last few months, there's been a growing movement by the entertainment industry to blame Google for "piracy." One of the favorite talking points is the claim that Google is "profiting from piracy," by linking people to sites that point people to unauthorized infringing copies of content, and then placing ads on those sites. Of course, this ignores the fact that the standard "pirate" out there isn't exactly the sort of person who goes around clicking on ads either -- and is probably a hell of a lot more likely to ignore the ads entirely or use something like Adblock. Either way, it seems like Google has decided to try to end this argument for the industry by announcing some basic changes in how it deals with copyright complaints.

Specifically, it aims to respond faster to DMCA notices -- while also providing better counternotice tools. Of course, as we've discussed, there have been some problems with the existing takedown process, where people have complained about entire blogs and blogposts disappearing due to unclear copyright claims. A little over a year ago, the company claimed it had revamped its DMCA takedown process for Blogger at least, so it's not clear how much of this new effort is revamping that old fix or just expanding it.

The company also says it'll be more diligent in rejecting AdSense on sites that provide infringing content. This was the key point that the industry folks were complaining about all the time, though I'd imagine (as noted above) that Google really isn't giving up much here at all, as I would doubt those sites actually bring in much revenue anyway. What is a little concerning is how, exactly, Google determines what sites are "providing infringing materials." After all, some argue that Google itself does that. Google is free to deny AdSense to whoever they want, so this isn't a huge deal, but contrary to the industry's claims, it's not always easy to tell what sites provide infringing materials and which do not. This should be clear from Homeland Security's seizing of the domains of some blogs that the industry regularly used to promote their own works.

The other thing that Google is doing is apparently preventing "terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete." This is in response to the complaint that when people use Google and do a search on a song or a movie, autocomplete often shows that the top search for that song or movie is the title and something like the word "bittorrent." Google notes:
While it's hard to know for sure when search terms are being used to find infringing content, we'll do our best to prevent Autocomplete from displaying the terms most frequently used for that purpose.
Again... Google is underplaying just how hard that really is... and just how much this kind of thing changes over time. For example, five years ago, I would imagine that searches for "mp3" were mostly about infringing content. But, because of that, over time, the recording industry was forced to adapt and admit that mp3 wasn't evil and was the preferred format. These days, of course, the entertainment industry insists that "bittorrent" or just "torrent" is somehow a bad term. But five years from now, that might not be the case. Having Google purposely hide such search results has the potential to distort the market in some ways, and actually delay much needed adaptation by the industry.

All in all, these moves aren't a huge surprise, given the complaints of some in the industry, but it'll be worth watching to see if the unintended consequences come back to bite both Google and the industry. Pretending that what's actually happening in the world isn't happening is not exactly a smart business strategy.

Filed Under: copyright
Companies: google

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  1. identicon
    sum guy, 2 Dec 2010 @ 5:16pm

    the most disturbing thing about this is the precedent it sets. the message here is if you complain long enough and loudly enough google or amazon or whomever, will change their policies to suit you. the thing i've always admired most about google is their sticking by their guns and rightly saying we don't favor or disfavor websites, its just the page rank algorithm. the fact that google has become so dominant in the search space is all the proof needed that this concept works. this latest move, however, is dangerously close to removing results because some AA group doesn't like what people are searching for. well so what? a lot of people/companies/organizations don't like the results that autocomplete suggests. But what they need to be concerned about is that autocomplete is the result of most common searches, not the cause of people searching.

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