Is Google bullying the entire media industry?
On Wednesday, Getty Images filed a complaint with the European Union’s antitrust commission over Google’s alleged piracy of its content. Getty Images claims that Google ‘siphons traffic’ away from the company’s premium website.
In the complaint, Getty claims that pre-2013, the search engine only included low-resolution thumbnails, but shortly afterward switched to a high-resolution slideshow format. Immediately after this switch, Getty says that traffic to their site dropped significantly, for which it holds Google completely responsible.
Getty reportedly sent complaints to Google in 2013, though Google took a hardline response. If Getty didn’t like their full-image slideshows, they could drop out of image search entirely (and, well, maybe lose all relevance). Getty decided to stay with the search engine as it wasn’t ‘viable’ for them to opt out, but have now moved forward with a complaint to the EU Commission to better deal with the situation.
This is a company that feels bullied, and railroaded into giving away their content for free. Getty general counsel Yoko Miyashita spoke out on the case, saying that Google has ”promoted piracy” which has resulted ”in widespread copyright infringement, turning users into accidental pirates.”
“By standing in the way of a fair market place for images, Google is threatening innovation and jeopardizing artists’ ability to fund the creation of important future works.”
Now, the European Commission will have to conclude whether or not Google has broken competition rules.
But, this isn’t the first time complaints have been thrown Google’s way over copyright infringement. Not by a long shot. The search giant is continuously under fire over its alleged lack of care for copyright infringed works.
Shockingly, Google experienced a 60% increase in DMCA takedown notices year-on-year.
In 2014, Google reportedly processed a massive 345 million pirate-linking takedown requests. Under DMCA ‘safe harbor’ laws, Google (and other similar-situated internet companies) are required to remove infringing content once they are notified by the content owner.
But if you think that’s bad, 2015 was worse, with the number of takedown requests recorded at 560 million, a 60% increase in just one year. In November of last year, it was also reported that the search engine received more than 2 million takedown requests in one day, which equates to 1,500 infringement requests a minute.
The fact that Google received over half a billion take down requests in just one year is a strong and convincing indicator that there isn’t enough being done to prevent pirate sites from popping up in Google search. Or, at the very least, preventing them from reoccurring.
Google has taken some steps to address the issue by implementing changes to its search algorithm to lower the ranking of sites that receive copyright infringing notices. But, there are still several large-scale torrent sites among the top search results.
Google at war with the BPI.
The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), a recording industry trade group, has been battling with the search giant for some time. Last month, the company reported 200 million links to infringing content on Google since July 2011. The BPI reported these infringing links via Google’s ‘Notice And Take Down’ policy, but they were quickly replaced by other pirate links, often with the same exact links.
The BPI alleged that Google is simply not doing enough to combat this ongoing issue, and proposed a ‘Notice And Stay Down’ policy, which prevents the same link for the same site being indexed again. However, Google is heavily resistant to this move and abruptly concluded that the ‘Take down Stay down’ system is “not a solution and just does not work.”
IFPI says Google is simply not doing enough.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) says that Google is always claiming to help tackle infringement, but they are not showing convincing results. The IFPI, like the BPI, has sent hundreds of millions of piracy notices to Google as they claim the search engine is supplying links to sites providing copyright infringing music that pay absolutely nothing to artists, songwriters or record producers.
The IFPI says that Google has proclaimed it would take into account the valid copyright removal notices it receives, but unfortunately ”the music industry has seen no demonstrable demotion of sites that receive a high volume of piracy notices”.
Just as we thought the story couldn’t get any worse for Google…
The RIAA rages over Google’s failed attempts to punish pirate sites.
After conducting searches, the ”RIAA previously found that 98% of the music related searches they performed on Google populated pirate sites on the first page”. From this, the RIAA concluded that Google isn’t giving pirate sites lower rankings as promised.
The RIAA even went to the length of drafting a ‘five-point plan’ for Google and other search engines to fight piracy. The plan is as follows:
1. Fulfill the admirable promise to demote sites receiving extensive numbers of piracy notices
2. Make sure that the “take down” of a song is meaningful – not repopulated online two seconds later
3. Educate users by identifying authorized sites with a consumer-friendly “icon”
4. Stop leading users to illegal sites through autocomplete
5. Give repeat offender policies some teeth
It’s not just companies and organizations that have had enough of pirated sites on Google, artists are among those that are fighting this battle over their copyrighted content.
Artists Slam Google-owned YouTube.
Artists have been battling with Google for a long time over copyright infringed content on YouTube. Artists say that the platform devalues their music and that the Content ID system doesn’t work effectively as it requires no proof of copyright ownership. ContentID is notoriously inaccurate and the dispute process ineffective.
Is Google doing enough to combat this piracy issue?
Well, looking at Q1 this year, it doesn’t seem as though pirated content on the search engine is slowing down. Google received 213 million requests to remove copyright infringing links in the first 12 weeks of 2016.
This doesn’t necessarily indicate a spike in piracy, as it is most likely due to new automated tools for finding infringing URLs. But, regardless, it does prove that the DMCA is not dealing with internet piracy effectively. Chris Ortman, MPAA VP of corporate communications says:
“The large volume of removal requests cited in Google’s Transparency Report clearly illustrates the magnitude of the piracy problem and the ineffectiveness of the ‘notice and take down’ system.”
Cara Duckworth Weiblinger, RIAA’s VP of communications added:
“For content creators everywhere who must work tirelessly to keep illegal copies of their work off the Internet, there must be a better way.”
However, another point to consider here is that there are more people using the internet than ever before, so it is expected that there will be more copyright infringed links available than ever before. But, the question is whether Google is simply allowing pirate sites to get away with this with a ‘notice and take down’ system that only temporarily removes the infringed content.
More bluntly, the question is whether Google is really working on new strategies to reduce this major piracy issue, in any meaningful way. The numbers indicate some crappy results.