How Google Fights Piracy was published online yesterday as a direct response to criticism that the company is an unwilling partner for bodies focused on copyright protection. Its defence falls into three areas: first, providing “better legal alternatives” to piracy, focusing on the role played by YouTube and Google Play.
“Each time a music fan chooses YouTube or Play over an unauthorized source, for example, it’s a victory against piracy,” claims legal director Fred von Lohmann in a blog post. Second, squeezing the flow of ad revenues to piracy sites, with the claim that Google disabled ad serving to more than 46k sites in 2012 for violating its copyright policies.
And third? That search engine thing. “During 2012, copyright owners and their agents sent us removal notices for more than 57 million web pages. Our turnaround time on those notices was, on average, less than 6 hours,” writes von Lohmann.
The report goes on to note that the RIAA sent it 8m takedown requests in 2012, closely followed by the BPI with 7m – although those totals will be much higher for 2013, given the BPI’s claim last week that it had sent 4m takedown requests in the last month alone.
There’s also a section claiming that “commentators often overlook some important realities” in the discussion around search engines and piracy. Google claims the major search engines account for “less than 16% of traffic to sites like The Pirate Bay”; and that the volume of search queries adding terms like ‘download’ and ‘mp3’ to artist and song titles is much lower than the basic artist/title search (for example, ‘flo rida whistle’ was searched for 30 times more often than ‘flo rida whistle download’).
Will the report end the frequent criticism of Google by bodies like the RIAA and BPI, as well as individual rightsholders? Clearly not: for example, the report’s claim that “sites with high numbers of removal notice may appear lower in search results” will provoke understandable questions about why ‘may’ isn’t ‘will’.
But even these critics should welcome Google setting out its stall on piracy and engaging at more length with the debate.