Google’s “Transparency” Masquerade

There are many stories coming out today about Google providing information about the quantity of DMCA take-down requests to which they respond.

According to VentureBeat, “ In the past month, the report indicates that 1,246,854 URLs have been targeted for removal from over 24,000 domains.”

The picture being painted by the anti-copyright press is that Google is doing their part to help copyright owners.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  If we just look at one search for “Adele Download” we see 138,000,000 search results.  This number of 138 million is the number of times that Google estimates that it sees the word “Adele” and the word “Download” on a web page (URL) that they are tracking to be included in search results.  The screenshot below is 90 pages deep into these search results.

So Google is trying to get people to think that processing 1.2 million take-down requests a month is somehow helping enforce copyright, when their own search engine shows 138 million results for just one artist’s links to downloads, 99.9% of which are to links that not only violate copyright but provide the copyrighted product for free, many with advertisements served by companies that Google owns.

Additionally, the top two web sites on page 90 are for the web site 4shared.com (see hundreds of links to pirate sites on all 90 pages).  If there was any pretense of Google actually helping enforce copyright, they would simply not display search results from 4shared that include the word “Adele.”  How would they know that 4shared.com is different from Rollingstone.com or Amazon.com? Because they have received literally thousands of take-down requests for the word Adele on the web site 4shared.com for months, and 4shared.com keeps posting links to illegal Adele downloads.  Google is in possession of copious data that show that 4shared.com and probably most of the other 24,000 domains are REPEAT INFRINGERS and should not enjoy the same free speech protections as Rollingstone.com or Amazon.com from which they have received little or no DMCA take-down requests.  In our opinion, the reason why they appear to willfully ignore the logical ethical response of discontinuing showing links to 4shared.com in “Adele Download” searches is because they make billions from playing this cat and mouse game with the law.  It is our opinion that this behavior deprives thousands of people of their legitimate income and benefits no one save for enriching Google and their illegitimate business partners who profit from providing illegal access to content.

It takes a team of professionals to get a great product like her’s to market, most of whom are not wealthy and many who depend on royalties from music sales.  When people buy her music, many people who are not wealthy receive their fair compensation for their work.  Google made $14 billion in profit in the last twelve months in part by getting paid to direct people to obtaining Adele’s music for free and depriving many, many people of their legitimate income.

Lastly, due to Google’s current practices of willfully ignoring web sites that repeatedly assist people in stealing content, copyright owners, who are already experiencing reduced revenues due to piracy, now have to pay money to technology companies to find these URLs and send the take-down notices to Google.  This was not how the Safe Harbor given to companies like Google was intended to work.  It was not intended to enrich gatekeepers like Google and reduce the income and wages of content creators.

Will UK Pirate Bay Blocking Have Any Effect?

The United Kingdom High Court has ordered five internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to file-sharing website The Pirate Bay.  It is an important symbolic move, but with Google offering an alternative DNS (Domain Name System, the tech that looks up the sites you browse), Frostwire having built-in torrent search and with BitTorrent building a P2P DNS , this action will probably not have much effect on the volume of piracy.

The five ISPs are Sky, Everything Everywhere, TalkTalk, O2 and Virgin Media.  According to the Court, they will have to comply within weeks.

The Pirate Bay is the #2 BitTorrent site ranked by unique monthly visitors, and provides links to torrent files which are used to illegally download and distribute movies, music, books, games and software.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) chief executive Geoff Taylor said: “The High Court has confirmed that The Pirate Bay infringes copyright on a massive scale. Its operators line their pockets by commercially exploiting music and other creative works without paying a penny to the people who created them. This is wrong – musicians, sound engineers and video editors deserve to be paid for their work just like everyone else.

“Sites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the UK and undermine investment in new British artists. We urge anyone using The Pirate Bay to explore the many digital music services operating ethically and legally in the UK – especially those carrying the Music Matters trustmark.”

A spokeswoman for Virgin Media confirmed it had received the order.

She said: “As a responsible ISP, Virgin Media complies with court orders addressed to the company but strongly believes that changing consumer behavior to tackle copyright infringement also needs compelling legal alternatives, such as our agreement with Spotify, to give consumers access to great content at the right price.”

This action follows a ruling by Justice Arnold in February of this year that found that both the operators and users of The Pirate Bay website infringe on copyrights.

According to Virgin Media, a BT spokesman said the firm was in “discussions” with BPI and hoped “to announce an outcome acceptable to both of us soon”.

While we applaud the UK High Court for at least trying to stop for-profit content theft from happening in broad daylight, the fact remains that there are many workarounds to domain blocking.  Not the least of which is just entering 194.71.107.15 in your browser bar which will take you directly the thepiratebay.se.  Additionally, more than a thousand domains that offer links to torrents, many of them in countries that will be much more tolerant of their behavior.  Additionally, the latest version of Frostwire already has built-in torrent search functionality that automatically searches many sites like The Pirate Bay to retrieve torrent files.  This makes the blocking of any one pirate site largely irrelevant.  Also, BitTorrent has been working on a peer-to-peer DNS since 2010 that will also completely work around the blocking of web sites.  In our opinion, the only scalable solution continues to be the enforcement of termination of repeat infringers who repeatedly seed torrents.  If no one is seeding then no one is downloading.  This was envisioned in the United States Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in 1998 even before Napster.  Section 512(i) of the DMCA states that an ISP’s shield from liability is contingent on the ISP having a policy that provides for the termination in appropriate circumstances of subscribers who are repeat infringers.

If ISPs were observing this provision within the DMCA, then illegal peer-to-peer transfers would not be 61% of all upload traffic on the internet, 18.8% of all internet traffic in the United States and billions of music files and movie files would not be consumed illegally each year.