Oh, Cary Sherman. Lately, the RIAA and its boss have gone back to whining
about how the real problem for their industry is Google. There's almost no actual evidence to support this, other than the fact that the record labels that the RIAA represents have seen dwindling revenue, while Google is doing pretty well. So it must be Google's fault. Cary Sherman, head lawyer in charge of the RIAA (funny that they never seem to put business people or innovators in charge...), has written an astoundingly misguided and misinformed attack on Google
over at The Hill
, which seems to think that publishing factually false information is fine, so long as it's done by a high paid lobbyist.
The global music industry has now sent its 100 millionth music piracy notice to Google. That’s a staggering number and it is worth pausing for a moment to assess what it means and what it says about online music.
Yes. It would appear to mean that (1) there is a lot of music out there that people want and (2) perhaps your labels should do a better job getting it to people and (3) perhaps wasting time sending takedowns isn't a particularly useful strategy.
For starters, that’s at least 100 million times Google offered to direct users to illegal sources for music just within the last two years
Um, no, it doesn't mean that at all. It means that there were 100 million times that some automated crawler bot decided to send a link it found, which it believed was infringing, to Google to take out of its index. Whether it was an "illegal source" is a different question altogether. Whether or not Google offered to direct any legitimate user to that file is also something totally different.
That’s also 100 million times that an artist, songwriter, music label – or anyone else involved in the chain of creating and distributing music – was likely denied the opportunity to earn any royalties, revenues or sales.
That's also just blatantly false. First, any Google search result comes with a bunch of other links as well, many of which could lead to revenue for those in that chain. Furthermore, even if the file was unauthorized (not, as Sherman falsely claims, "illegal"), that quite frequently still does lead to opportunities to earn royalties, as multiple studies have shown over and over and over and over again. On top of that, if someone is really looking for a free MP3 of something, that's what they're looking for
and they're not going to spend any money on the file anyway
, so no revenue is "denied." That revenue never existed.
And 100 million times that innovative tech companies – like Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, Deezer, Vevo, and dozens more – didn’t benefit from a sale or a stream.
Here is Sherman's weak attempt at pretending he supports innovation. Again, if someone was looking to buy such a track or stream it, they likely know where to go. But that's not why they go to Google in the first place.
From there, Sherman goes on to explain how he'd like Google to work. Because spending decades working for record labels has taught him all about
how search engines should work, and how the users of those search engines would like them to work. Or, more accurately, he'd like to change Google's search results in the mistaken belief that the kid looking for a free mp3 will suddenly buy it, if only he were told of places he could pay for it.
So the enforcement system we operate under requires us to send a staggering number of piracy notices – 100 million and counting to Google alone—and an equally staggering number of takedowns Google must process. And yet pirated copies continue to proliferate...
What's that Einstein quote
about "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results"?
The power of search and the predominant popularity of top-tier results are well documented – particularly in their capacity to steer users to illegal sites. A Wiggins study, for example, found that “65% of ‘pirates’ regularly use search engines to find infringing content.” Similar studies have found similar results.
Not quite. Most studies have shown something quite different. In fact, a study from the RIAA's best buddies, the MPAA, actually found that just 19%
of visits to infringing content were "influenced" by search (note: not found by search). In fact, when you dig deep into the numbers
, you'll find that a large percentage of searches that lead to content aren't people just searching for some artist or some song, but rather searching for a site -- so-called "navigational searches" such as someone doing a search for "the pirate bay." I'm not sure what Cary Sherman thinks, but I find it doubtful that some kid is going to do a search for "the pirate bay" and then be happy when the search results point him to Spotify or iTunes.
And this is Sherman and other maximalists' general confusion over search. They still think that search engines are supposed to be designed to show users what the RIAA wants
them to find, rather than what the searcher wants to find
. Directly changing Google's search engine to give results that users don't want won't make anyone suddenly go buy music again, no matter what Sherman wants.
But, hey, since he's so damn sure that he knows how to program a search engine, why doesn't he go and do it? He seems to think he can build a better search engine than Google, so why not have the RIAA build its own search engine and go compete.