The question is whether Google’s response to piracy has become purposely complex, circular, and ultimately damaging to the creative community.
Here’s an interesting statement we found from Google UK compliance manager Theo Bertram while discussing anti-piracy compliance over the summer.
The comments, painfully relevant to a growing debate over ad-supported piracy, came during a BBC discussion with British label group BPI.
“It’s not for Google to go around the web, judging what is or isn’t legal and I don’t think people would want us to. When people tell us ‘That’s my content on that page,’ we remove the page quickly – we do that nearly 2 million times every month.”
“But our research shows however much you do on filtering or blocking, what is much more effective is to go after the money – to remove the financial underpinnings, the advertising, the payment processes.”
The rest is almost laughingly dysfunctional. Google follows the DMCA to a tee, but most of the offending content quickly returns. Google advises companies to attack advertisers, but is oftentimes the one serving the ads. Indeed, music attorney and longtime Google critic Chris Castle recent outlined a now-mature Google ecosystem in which Google sends traffic to pirate sites, serves the ads on those same sites, then throws lots of lobbying money to protect all the participants involved. The extent of that ad-serving system is now one part of a research initiative at USC Annenberg.
The assessment may sound cynical to some, though in practice, Google now seems perfectly adept at selective filtering and enforcement. For example, the company has shown the ability to filter explicit content from both mainline and image search results, and achieved near-perfect scrubbing of YouTube for pornographic content. Indeed, Google seems perfectly fine with censoring material that could harm its user experience, while remaining perfectly committed to complex takedown procedures for everything else.
Of course, major labels are no angels either. But it’s become more obvious that attempts to rip down content – through the DMCA or otherwise – are now almost perfectly useless.
“Once we’ve told Google 100,000 times that a particular site is illegal, we don’t think that site should be coming above iTunes and Spotify in the results.”
Geoff Taylor, CEO, BPI.