Google fields a lot of brickbats from the music industry on its anti-piracy policies, but the company has teamed up with PRS for Music on a research study of ‘The Six Business Models for Copyright Infringement’.

Its key finding – that advertising is a key funding source for sites “thought by major rights holders to be significantly facilitating copyright infringement” – is likely to pile fuel onto the debate rather than dampen it down.

The report is based on research by Detica, and goes beyond music with additional data provided by FACT, the Premier League, UKIE and The Publishers Association. It segments piracy sites thus: Live TV Gateways; P2P Communities; Subscription Communities; Music Transaction (the AllofMP3 successors); Rewarded Freemium; and Embedded Streaming.

Two findings stand out from a music perspective. First: the importance of advertising – funding 86% of P2P community sites for example – and much of it coming from outside the mainstream advertising industry.

Second: the importance of search engines for Music Transaction sites – users on those were much more likely to have arrived via a search engine than for the other five categories.

Both these findings relate directly to two of the music industry’s chief bugbears with Google – how strictly it polices use of its AdSense advertising platform, and its refusal to scrub sites accused of infringement from its search results at the say-so of rightsholders. That said, today’s report is a welcome sign of Google’s willingness to engage with rightsholders on these issues.

“Our research shows there are many different business models for online infringement which can be tackled if we work together,” says Google’s Theo Bertram. “The evidence suggests that one of the most effective ways to do this is to follow the money, targeting the advertisers who choose to make money from these sites and working with payment providers to ensure they know where their services are being used.”

Meanwhile, PRS for Music boss Robert Ashcroft hopes the report will be taken to heart by the British government. “sites involved in copyright infringement are businesses with real costs and revenue sources.  They receive subscription or advertising revenue, pay their server or hosting costs but fail to pay the creators of content on which their businesses depend,” he says.

“Not all of these business models are the same, and the Government now has the evidence to understand which policy levers to apply to deal with these different businesses effectively.”

The full report will be live on PRS for Music’s site today.

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  1. The industry needs to wake up and stop focusing on killing piracy sites.. instead they should be focusing on building products that are better and easier to use than piracy sites!

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