Search Results Have Little Impact on Piracy, Study Finds…

The music industry should stop obsessing about getting Google to downgrade copyright infringing sites in its search results, according to a new report published by the Computer & Communication Industry Association.  The reason is that it has little to no effect on reducing piracy.

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The music industry should stop obsessing about getting Google to downgrade copyright infringing sites in its search results, according to a new report published by the Computer & Communication Industry Association.  The reason is that it has little to no effect on reducing piracy.

Google has promised to comply with the creative industries’ request to push such search results down last summer, but an RIAA report this year showed little had changed since then – and the British record label association, the BPI, is sending more takedown notices than ever.

However, according to the CCIA’s research, titled The Search Fixation, users rarely input queries such as “download”, “mp3” or “torrent”, instead opting for more general queries that are simply the artist names and/or track names.

The report also claims that only 15 percent of traffic to rogue sites comes from search.  Alexa data showed only 8 percent of The Pirate Bay’s traffic came from search.

It’s worth pointing out that the CCIA is far from neutral and objective on these matters – it’s an advocacy organisation whose sole purpose is to push policy favourable to its members in the technology industry. Google is a prominent member, while Grooveshark is listed as an “emerging company affiliate“, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that the report targets the RIAA, specifically.

So what should music companies do?  Increase the visibility of lawful content in search results, says the CCIA.  Somewhat contradictorily, CCIA suggests rights owners should get legal online platforms to increase basic search engine optimisation (SEO) for search terms such as “mp3” and “download” by including them in their indexed pages.  That way, legal options appear higher in results.

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The report also claims that the Why Music Matters website, a portal offering indexes of legal music platforms (or, as the CCIA calls them: “authorised content platforms”), is providing “some value”. Most music companies would, however, argue that it’s had little to no effect on the amount of infringement since it launched.

The suggestion is that the reason some people use The Pirate Bay and other sites is because they aren’t aware of legal options.

Or, in other words, Amazon, iTunes, Spotify and other “obscure” music providers need to improve their profile to increase consumer awareness of their existence – and the music industry should stop bugging Google with its takedown notices, as there’s little point to them.

55 Responses

  1. Visitor
    Visitor

    “Search Results Have Little Impact on Piracy, Study Finds…”
    STUDY? 🙂
    This is not a study! Please read — and understand — your own words again:
    “It’s worth pointing out that the CCIA is far from neutral and objective on these matters – it’s an advocacy organisation whose sole purpose is to push policy favourable to its members in the technology industry. Google is a prominent member, while Grooveshark is listed as an “emerging company affiliate”, so perhaps it’s unsurprising that the report targets the RIAA, specifically.”

    Reply
    • GGG
      GGG

      Sigh. If you had any knowledge of the piracy culture so you could actually understand how to fight it best, you’d realize, like I’ve been telling you for months and months, that no substantial amount of people use search engines to find torrents. Even if they did, you’d need it once then never again.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “no substantial amount of people use search engines to find torrents”
        That’s simply not correct. Try this, if you or your artist can afford to lose a song:
        1) Release two titles you believe have similar possibilities.
        2) Send notices for song a, but not song b.
        3) Compare sales.
        4) Join dmcaholics anonymous. Except you’re not anonymous of course, thanks to Google’s utterly failed extortion scheme.

        Reply
        • GGG
          GGG

          You cannot say something is “simply not correct” when the data in the article we’re commenting on basically says I am. Show me something, anything, that proves you are remotely correct.

          Reply
          • GGG
            GGG

            Uh..they’d be the same thing? Says Google is a prominent member of the org that ran this study. And I’ve been saying this exact same since before I started commenting on this site.

          • wrongwrongwrong
            wrongwrongwrong

            Um…. Doesn’t even the cherry picked “data” here say that removing illegal results from search could reduce illegal downloads by as much as 15%? That’s pretty significant! We should do that. The analysis here is just Google’s corporate spin.

          • GGG
            GGG

            Traffic and people who actually torrent something are going to be different numbers.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “Doesn’t even the cherry picked “data” here say that removing illegal results from search could reduce illegal downloads by as much as 15%?”
            You mean, you won’t even give Google 15% of your salary?
            Greedy bastard.

          • GGG
            GGG

            It doesn’t say anything of the sort anyway. It says 15% of pirate site traffic comes from search engines. That is in NO WAY equal to 15% of actual pirated content. Any conclusion you draw from that is complete speculation until you can show more data.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “It says 15% of pirate site traffic comes from search engines”
            OK, you’re right.
            If the numbers were correct, which they’re not, we would only have to pay Google 7.5% of our salaries.
            (Assuming you agree that piracy accounts for about 50% of all consumed music.)

          • GGG
            GGG

            Even if I do agree, it’s still irrelevant until you can show me 50% of the 15% that go actually utilize a torrent.
            Remember, burden of proof is on you, not me.

      • Paul Resnikoff
        Paul Resnikoff

        Really interesting point. There hasn’t been any A|B style research done at all on the DMCA (at least that I know of). And, an artist like Rihanna could easily be a fantastic test case: the next ‘Diamonds,’ for example, could be cut in two slightly-different ways, perhaps one with a slightly different third chorus or whatever.
        One is blasted with DMCA takedowns, patrolled, anti-piracy’d to the 9s. The other, is left alone.

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          “There hasn’t been any A|B style research done at all on the DMCA”
          Most labels experiment all the time. Their results are reflected in the (increasing) number of takedowns…

          Reply
          • GGG
            GGG

            Major labels have also taken videos off youtube with their music playing in the background. I think we can both agree some shitty quality video with second source audio of a song is not stopping anyone from buying their track.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            You have to police your property. If you fail to do so, you’ll regret it in court if you one day find yourself in a plagiarism case.

          • GGG
            GGG

            Ok…not sure what plagiarism has to do with this but cool…
            And sure, police your property all you want, doesn’t mean you’re actually preventing or stopping anything. Removing links that nobody clicks on is like putting extra locks on a door nobody ever tries to open.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “not sure what plagiarism has to do with this but cool”
            You went off-topic, complaining about labels removing infringing material from YouTube.
            So I explained to you why they have to police their property.
            And now you don’t understand what plagiarism has to do with it?

          • GGG
            GGG

            Good lord.
            1) Don’t see how what I said is complaining but whatever…
            2) I was simply pointing out that labels police, sometimes overly, their content. So the fact that they ask for takedowns doesn’t necessarily mean it’s been costing them anything. Just like a Prince track the background of a youtube video of some kid dancing didn’t cost him 1 sale.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “Just like a Prince track the background of a youtube video of some kid dancing didn’t cost him 1 sale.”
            Let’s try again:
            If the owner of a song fails to police her property it will cost her later on. I.e. if she ever has to defend her ownership in court, the opponent’s lawyer will say:
            “Ms. Songwriter did not protect her property against obvious YouTube infringement so my client had every reason to assume that the work was abandoned and had entered Public Domain.”
            Result: Significantly reduced damages — at the very least.

          • wallow-T
            wallow-T

            It is trademark which must be vigorously defended, at the risk of having the mark pass into common use.
            Not copyright.

          • GGG
            GGG

            Stupid. Not locking your door doesn’t negate the crime of stealing.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “It is trademark which must be vigorously defended”
            No, it goes for copyright as well, though to another degree and for slightly different reasons.
            A copyrighted song will for instance never automatically slip into the Public Domain — but you won’t be able to receive max. compensation in plagiarism cases if you previously failed to police the song.
            So it is a gray area; you can’t lose your basic rights, but abandonment/orphan-work accusations will always weaken your case.
            “Mere inaction [, or publication without a copyright notice,] does not constitute abandonment of the copyright; however, [this may be a factor] [these may be factors] for you to consider in determining whether the plaintiff has abandoned the copyright.”
            http://www3.ce9.uscourts.gov/web/sdocuments.nsf/18d8322df5fb351c8825728200016dd0/0d38e8f77b1855b58825728b005e7e6d?OpenDocument
            And again, this is why you once in a while see labels remove seemingly innocent material.

    • Visitor
      Visitor

      Follow the procedure outlined 2 posts above and you’ll understand why rightholders spend so much time and money on takedowns…

      Reply
    • GGG
      GGG

      15% including the fact that “users rarely input queries such as “download”, “mp3” or “torrent”, instead opting for more general queries are simply the artist names and/or track names.”
      Which means possibly a large percentage of that 15% probably wasn’t even looking to actually torrent anything.

      Reply
  2. Faza (TCM)
    Faza (TCM)

    Am I the only one who notices that the search terms people type in are completely irrelevant? It’s the results they get that matter.
    As a quick experiment I just typed “Rihanna Diamonds” into Google. First up was – predictably – YouTube, closely followed by oodles of (most likely unlicensed) lyric sites. However, the following result became highly prominent, starting page 2:
    In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint [link redacted] that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org
    iTunes doesn’t appear until page 4.
    So yeah, why type “download” when a simple search for the song will get you yer fix (until the DMCA meanies come along, anyway).
    The Pirate Bay numbers are a bit (actually, a lot) of a con, too. TPB has their own search enginge, you see. Once you know they exist, you don’t need to Google them unless you’re really, really dense. You just pop by wherever they’re moored these days and ask “who’s seeding Rihanna, cheers”.
    Now, what might be interesting is what percentage of users getting pirated content offa cyberlockers got there via general search… However, that’s one number I’m sure we won’t be seeing.

    Reply
    • Yves Villeneuve
      Yves Villeneuve

      I noticed but thanks for bringing it out in the open. Sometimes comments, good or bad, speak for themselves therefore a response is not needed.

      Reply
    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “Once you know they [tpb] exist, you don’t need to Google them”
      If you had any real-life experience from the creative industries you’d know three things:
      1) Organized criminals like to think they play whac-a-mole because their sites move around all the time due to blocking, banning, etc.
      That’s how Google slowly became the world’s leading Piracy Search Engine: Even torrentfreak readers have trouble finding the latest proxies. Enter Google. Most piracy sites would instantly die without it.
      2) Content owners don’t spend huge amounts of time and money sending millions of dmca notices because they think it’s funny.
      If they stop sending notices, they don’t sell anything.

      3) Google is not your friend. On the contrary; Google and the rest of CCIA started a new war against music and art on July 27th 2013. The purpose is to abolish copyright in the US:
      https://torrentfreak.com/tough-copyright-laws-chill-innovation-tech-companies-warn-lawmakers-130727/

      Reply
      • GGG
        GGG

        “If they stop sending notices, they don’t sell anything.”
        Give me a break. Scrub every Pirate Bay link from every search engine, piracy will barely take a hit.

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          Geez GGG, have you any idea how important it is for a company to be on top of Google’s search pages — or be there at all???
          Here’s how it works:
          Be there or be dead!

          Reply
          • GGG
            GGG

            Yea, in the top about 4 or 5 (3 really) and then they don’t matter. I’ve worked in SEO.

  3. Tune Hunter
    Tune Hunter

    For almost a year I am doing sporadic test of Google and YouTube participation in piracy.
    “yellow submarine” always brings two wikipedias and #3 is YouTube HD version never interrupted by any commercials, ready for mp3 rip!
    Google is pathetic!
    All goods intended for future monetization and loaded to YouTube should have monetization check-box. After say 50K of free ad supported runs it should convert at the artist choice to commercial material – 50K, or 250 for some folks means success, so lets make some cash, Google the most!
    From that point on just 90 seconds free play – then pay!

    Reply
  4. James_J
    James_J

    It was mentioned in passing, but did no one else catch the GLARING CONTRADICTION in the ‘report’?
    First they say ‘don’t worry about search results, because they don’t matter one bit’…

    …but then they go on to recommend the ‘solution’. “Search Engine Optimization [SEO]” which raises legitimate outlets in the search results…
    If the search results don’t matter, how would raising legitimate outlets in search then be the ‘answer’?
    What a frigging joke.

    Reply
    • GGG
      GGG

      Because SEO is a legitimate thing that companies devote entire teams of people to. Asking for take down notices is just a waste of time and makes idiots think Google is actually doing something about piracy.

      Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “Because SEO is a legitimate thing that companies devote entire teams of people to”
        This is confusing:
        You don’t know that it is crucial for a company to appear in the search engines, but you do know what SEO is.
        So could you please explain to us why companies spend huge amounts of time and money on SEO when it doesn’t matter if they appear in search engines?
        Here’s your search-engines-don’t-matter statement again:
        “Scrub every Pirate Bay link from every search engine, piracy will barely take a hit”

        Reply
        • GGG
          GGG

          The first point is that, as this study shows, traffic to piracy via search engines is minimal. So the point of scrubbing every torrent link is that the vast majority of pirates will still be getting their free content.
          Has nothing to do with legit companies, in which SEO is astronomically important.

          Reply
          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “The first point is that, as this study shows”
            Study? Which study?
            What we have here is search engine propaganda suggesting that we use — wait for it — search engine optimisation to kill a Piracy Industry that would be dead already without search engines.

          • GGG
            GGG

            It would already be dead even though most traffic is not from search engines? That makes total sense…
            Google probably sees DMCA takedowns as a nuisance. Maybe they like torrent sites, maybe they don’t, maybe they don’t give a shit either way. I’m not defending Google or any SE here. All I’m saying is that if you literally scrubbed every pirate bay link from google, pirate bay’s traffic would not take a massive hit, and more importantly, content being torrented would not take a hit probably at all.

          • Visitor
            Visitor

            “even though most traffic is not from search engines”
            Says who? The search engines? The voices in your head?
            Why don’t you try the procedure I suggested and get a hands-on experience?
            The results will differ significantly from any number you have seen on this page.

          • GGG
            GGG

            No, says my actual knowledge of the pirate community by knowing personally and through message boards/blogs/etc, people who pirate or pirated content excessively. Something you have absolute zero of.
            You don’t fight a disease without knowing how it acts first.

    • Visitor
      Visitor

      “First they say ‘don’t worry about search results, because they don’t matter one bit’…[…] but then they go on to recommend the ‘solution’. “Search Engine Optimization [SEO]””
      Yeah, don’t you just love that…
      Oh and let’s see, exactly how do I integrate the search term ‘torrent’ on my pages — without spamming the engines?

      Reply
  5. Paul Resnikoff
    Paul Resnikoff

    It seems really difficult to separate this from Google, or regard this as something different than the dreaded ‘sponsored research’. Which brings up a really glaring question: if search results have little impact on piracy, why not scrub those results? Maybe that’s a question that’s been asked for years…

    Reply
    • GGG
      GGG

      These tech companies, from Google to Twitter to Tumblr, have all at some played up the “we are advocates of free speech and/or anti-censorship” or whatever at some point to various extents. So whether it’s something as innane as that or something more insidious like silent deals with pirate sites, the fact of SEO still remains that from a statistical standpoint, essentially 0 people click on any link past the first 5 or 6. Any nobody goes past page 1. So even if you had 4000 pages of torrent links from the bottom of page 1 on, it still means almost nothing.
      Not to mention, the fact that Google does scrub them and even allow you to ask to get them scrubbed, sort of seems like them creating the illusion of caring. So they can’t be playing both sides of this.

      Reply
      • Faza (TCM)
        Faza (TCM)

        I think you’ll find that assertions along the lines of “essentially 0 people click on any link past the first 5 or 6” are spin in themselves and you’d do your argument a favour by not making them.
        When people search for something they don’t tend to look through the entire result set before choosing to click something, true, but they equally won’t click a result if it isn’t linking to what they were looking for.
        I’ve already given one example of such a result set earlier in the thread, with a large portion of page 1 (and subsequent) being links to lyric sites. Unless someone is actually searching for the lyrics, all those results are going to be ignored because people aren’t mindless click-bots.
        A second experiment that I did not mention – searching for “Rihanna” filled the first page with news reports of her doing something scandalous or other, as she does (I forget what). Again, those links will mostly be ignored, unless such reports were what’s being sought.
        So, a more truthful formulation would be that people will tend to click on the first result they consider relevant to their search, regardless of where in the result set it may be located (with the caveat that if the result set is large and the first relevant result is buried deep towards the end, they may give up before doing so – deciding that what they’re looking for is probably not there).
        Next time, please at least attempt to account for the fact that people do actually behave rationally (at least to an extent).

        Reply
        • GGG
          GGG

          Sorry, I’ve worked in SEO. The bottom of page 1 is already essentially irrelevant from a statistical standpoint. The top 3 are the vast, vast majority of clicks, and the next 2-4 maybe get a combined 3%. The rest is fractions.

          Reply
      • Visitor
        Visitor

        “These tech companies, from Google to Twitter to Tumblr, have all at some played up the “we are advocates of free speech and/or anti-censorship””
        Google doesn’t have any problems with censorship:
        “there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or found”
        Jacquelline Fuller, Director, Google, June 17, 2013
        http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-22933333
        The good news for children and parents is that Google now thinks that pictures of child abuse constitute such information.
        The bad news for musicians, software developers, writers, movie people, etc. is that Google works day & night to abolish copyright.
        Which is why you can find any kind of stolen intellectual property where you expect to find it:
        On top of Google’s search pages.

        Reply
        • Visitor
          Visitor

          “there’s certain ‘information’ that should never be created or found”
          I like it! Start with lyrics and tune titles.

          Reply
  6. hippydog
    hippydog

    its been said many times..
    Google and other search engines have no problem making porn results less relevant in search results (and the porn industry is pretty darn good at SEO)
    Yet they cant make illegal music results less relevant?
    Those two things dont compute..
    Seems to me results are coming from the same places.. [just one DMCA example]
    http://isohunt.com/torrent_details/421148357/Rihanna+Diamonds
    http://mp3skull.com/mp3/diamonds_
    http://www.downloads.nl/music/Rihann
    Not that hard to block.. So the most likely scenario is google DOESNT want to actually block them unless they are 100% forced too..

    Reply
  7. Visitor
    Visitor

    Hm, here’s a strange detail…
    CCIA says in their report:
    “Concerns about organic search results containing terms such as “mp3” or “download” are misplaced, however. Actual search data indicates that appending “mp3# or “download” as the RIAA paper suggests is statistically uncommon.”
    http://www.ccianet.org/CCIA/files/ccLibraryFiles/Filename/000000000821/CCIA_TheSearchFixation%20%282%29.pdf
    I typed these terms in Google’s search field:
    kesha die young
    And Google’s second autocomplete suggestion was “mp3”, while it’s tenth suggestion was “download”.
    Now, here’s how Autocomplete works, according to Google:
    “How autocomplete works
    Where the predictions come from
    As you type, autocomplete predicts and displays queries to choose from. The search queries that you see as part of autocomplete are a reflection of the search activity of all web users and the content of web pages indexed by Google”
    So the second most common search term related to Ke$ha’s Die Young is indeed mp3!
    A search term Google just told us is “statistically uncommon”.
    Which proves that RIAA is right — and Google is lying!

    Reply

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