You may wish to sit down for this morning’s bombshell: a music industry body thinks Google could do more in response to piracy takedown notices. Let us know if you need any smelling salts to recover from the shock.
Yes, the RIAA and Google are at loggerheads again over the DMCA takedowns system, with both providing evidence to a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing last week on possible changes to the system.
The RIAA has since published its own annotated version of the evidence from Google’s senior copyright policy counsel Katherine Oyama, picking over her arguments.
For example, Oyama’s claim that “Service providers cannot by themselves determine whether a given use is infringing” sparked the RIAA’s counterclaim that “True, but if we send several notices about the same song on the same site – like we do with Google – shouldn’t service providers get the hint?”
Oyama’s claim that Google has invested more than $60m in its Content ID system on YouTube is countered by a claim that this is less than 0.03% of the company’s $200bn revenues since Content ID was launched in 2008.
Oyama’s claim that Google is “the only search engine” to use a “demotion signal” for piracy sites in its ranking algorithm elicits a blunt “we have seen no demonstrable evidence that this is true”. And so on.
RIAA boss Cary Sherman elaborated on some of these points in his own testimony to the subcommittee, outlining the frustration his organisation feels about the takedowns process.
“Google places a numerical limit on the number of search queries we can make to find the infringing content and, as a result, we can only take down a tiny fraction of the number of infringing files on each pirate site, let alone on the Internet generally,” he said, as reported by TorrentFreak.
“Their search query limitations provide us with a bucket to address an ever-replenishing ocean of infringement… Every day we have to send new notices to take down the very same links to illegal content we took down the day before. It’s like Groundhog Day for takedowns.”
All of these arguments – on both sides – are well-rehearsed, and familiar to anyone in the music industry that’s been following the back-and-forth between the two sides in recent years.
If there’s a problem, it’s not just one of outdated or unfit-for-use copyright legislation, but one of intense distrust and a gulf in understanding between the creative industries and the parts of Google involved in DMCA lobbying.
As ever, that’s different to saying ‘Google’ – there ARE plenty of music people within the company at YouTube and Google Play working hard to help the music industry build its digital business. The ill feeling from the takedowns rows and lobbying process is hardly helping those efforts, even if the degree by which it’s hindering them is open to debate.