Google recently published a report essentially telling rightsholders to simmer down over the importance of search engines in fuelling piracy. Now movie industry body the MPAA is firing back with its own report, prepared by branding agency Millward Brown.

It claims that search engines “influenced 20% of the sessions” in which people accessed infringing TV shows or films online between 2010 and 2012; that 74% of people surveyed said they’d used a search engine in their first visits to sites with infringing content; and that 58% of queries used by consumers before viewing infringing content “contain generic or title-specific keywords only” rather than keywords relating to piracy.

And for good measure, the report claims that Google’s share of referral traffic to piracy sites “remained flat” in the three months after it promised to demote such sites in its search algorithm. In other words, a direct attack on most of Google’s claims. We’d be very wary of wading into a big-data battle with Google, but the MPAA’s report looks set to spark more argument over search’s role in piracy.

Its publication came as music body the RIAA launched its own broadside at search engines, as part of evidence to a House Judiciary Subcommittee in the US. “Search engines may be considered the roadmaps or, more directly, the turn-by-turn directions and door-to-door service to these sites,” said chairman Cary Sherman.

“Unfortunately, while there has been some action and steps taken by search engines under the notice and takedown system of the DMCA, there has been little movement toward finding tools that have the impact of actually reducing theft and damage.” The RIAA is calling for more voluntary measures.

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