This afternoon, Google announced a series of steps to work with rightsholders to tackle online copyright infringement, focused on its search engine and its AdSense advertising network. You can read the details here.However, Music Ally joined a conference call to brief journalists about the announcement, where further details were provided about what Google is doing, and why. Simon Morrison, copyright, policy and communications manager at Google EMEA took the call. Here are the key highlights.On whether this was in response to pressure from rightsholders“We talk to rightsholders all the time about these sorts of issues, and that has been raised… we’re interested in helping creators because that helps us… We are taking a two-pronged approach to copyright infringement: you have to have good anti-piracy practices, and you have to create new business models and opportunities.We are doing a lot and working on more [for the latter]: we do things with YouTube, and have announced we’re to launch Google Editions [for e-books]. If you make it easy for people to buy legal content, they are less likely to hunt down pirated content… We talk to content owners all the time, and we have heard the feedback. This is more about helping content owners make money online, and helping users find legal content.”On whether this will undermine Google’s reputation for producing objective search results“It’s an important question. Google is not in a position with respect to copyright infringement to work out what’s legal and what’s not. Lots of artists put their music out there through promotional tools, or sending it to blogs. We need rightsholder help for that sort of thing…We aim to provide the best search results possible… and if there is infringing material, we need to make it easy for rightsholders to let us know… Today’s announcement is in part about making that process more efficient for rightsowners. It is not about altering the search results… Those [infringing] sites won’t be removed from the search results. The search results will stay the same.” Update: Google has clarified that this means the results will stay the same until a DMCA takedown notice is received – an important distinction.On YouTube“YouTube is not affected by this announcement. It’s a special case: we already remove infringing material within a few hours, and we have the Content ID system which is very successful… We have spent more than $30 million and tens of thousands of man hours building Content ID.”On the balance between rightsholders and users, and counter-notices for takedown requests“It must all be transparent, and to the benefit of both rightsholders and users… It would be a bad situation if it were really easy for you to tell me to take down a site, but really hard for me as a user to tell you that’s a mistake.On how Google will make ‘authorised preview content’ more easily viewable in search results“The kind of thing you can imagine would be allowing site owners to put up previews – say you search for a song, to put up a preview of that song within the search results… We might set a standard that music websites could use, where they implement a 90-second preview which would come within the search results, and you can play it…We already have a tool something like this, although not quite the same – the music search feature on in the US, where if you type ‘rolling stones satisfaction’, then at the top of the results will come a preview spot, with links to services where you can either buy or stream legally the song. That’s one way that was experimented with.”On ‘responsible’ usage of the easier takedown tools by rights owners, and whether there’s a danger of abuse“It has happened and it’s a possibility. It’s important to maintain [the balance] for us, because we aim to be as neutral as possible and as comprehensive as possible while showing legal results… If we would take down anything that someone sent, we’d enter a situation in which it would be easier for them [rightsholders] to be lazy about it, and to blanket-ask. We need to be very precise: we are taking down infringing content, but we are not hurting users who are doing things perfectly legally. It is important to strike that balance.”On whether this puts the onus back on rightsholders to license and develop innovative legal services“We are not oppositional – we want to work with these guys. We’ll both have to work on building these tools. Google is not the only player trying to build great new services that make it easier to buy content online. Everyone recognises this is an important area for the internet… With our technical expertise in this area, we want to form partnerships.”

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