Congress Tells Google: Clean Up Your Search Results, Or We Will…

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United States House Committee on the Judiciary.
Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Hearing.
Hearing on Section 512 of Title 17, ie, the DMCA.
March, 2014. Washington, DC.

Rep. Tom Marino (R) Pennsylvania:  Thank you Chairman, and thank you to the panel members for being here.  I hear dozens and dozens of war stories from creators who have come to personally see me, and they’ve shared their nightmares with me, almost exactly the way [Grammy-winning songwriter] Ms. Schneider has genuinely and eloquently stated what she has been going through.

Ms. Oyama, you and I had the opportunity a couple of weeks ago to talk about many issues, this being one of them. And, it was very enlightening, you showed me a lot of what was being done.  I guess I’m looking at this from a proactive approach.  We talked about the ‘red light green light system’ a little bit, by which a provider would denote in a search, in results, those sites that may have been tagged as likely to contain infringing content, with a yellow or red light and some explanation.

Would you be willing to create with the providers that you can work with, or you at Google, create a method to implement this type of system, and further would you be willing to move these authorized legitimate results to the top of the page?

Katherine Oyama, Senior Copyright Policy Counsel, Google Inc.: I think we always want to have authorized legitimate results appear, we’ve done a lot of great work especially using the signal and other things, working with rights holders to make sure that for the vast majority of queries related to media and entertainment content, the ones I discussed earlier related to films, that the legitimate results are surfacing.  I think the ‘red light green light’ concept that we talked about was in the context of kind of flagging for users that sites might be good or might be bad.  I think we have to remember that the DMCA applies to all service providers, there may be 66, ya know, thousand or more —

Rep. Marino: — I understand that that, but I’m looking for a solution here.

I’m really not one that wants the federal government to get involved in what it’s involved in now, I’m a state’s rights guy.  And I want to see less federal government in my life.  But we need to ramp this up a little bit, and I’m looking towards the industry.

I’m having some faith, for the time being, in the industry and providers to come up with methods — and I mean, Google, you’re a smart operation over there, I’m very impressed, but I’m looking to you to create a system whereby people like Ms. Schneider are not damaged as they are.

For example, when someone types in a movie, ‘free,’ can you not do something?  I can’t believe you cannot, I think we can.  If we can put a man on the moon and transplant a heart, we certainly can say when someone shows up ‘free,’ do something about that.  

Help me out, give me some suggestions, please.

Oyama: Yes, okay, so I think we cannot strike the word ‘free’ from search [laughing], because there’s a lot of legitimate great free music and movies and, that’s good for everybody, that’s good for consumers.  Some artists, the first thing they want is they want people to know who they are, they want to get their name recognition out.  And from there, they use this popularity: songs go viral, they go number one on iTunes, they travel the world.  These are good things to have the internet available, to have distribution of music.

I think the key, the key place here that I think we can all  continue to work together, is how do we surface legitimate content?  So if we want to fight piracy, we need to increase the availability of legitimate offerings —

Rep. Marino:  — Yeah, but let — let me stop you there a moment, there’s got to be a process by which when certain things come up free, and I don’t want to have to pay for it. That that can be flagged, and…

Oyama: Yes, yes… One of the places we’ve had some good conversations with folks about is if you want legitimate pages to surface for a query for ‘free,’ the pages should have the word ‘free’.  So you could say, ‘free music sample,’ you know, anything with that word ‘free’ that will help it surface.  We’re also trying to use additional space in search —

Rep. Marino: — Alight, let me jump to another question —


… later in the hearing.

Rep. Cedric Richmond (D) Louisiana:  Thank you Mr. Chairman.  Let me just start with you Ms. Oyama.  And, you mention the Auto Complete.  And, I guess my question is, can [Google] manipulate or manage the Auto Complete because if someone is just going to Google for 12 Years a Slave… [pause].  Once you get to ’12 Years’  and it says ‘free’ or ‘watch for free,’ then you are pushing them to that space even if they didn’t want to go there.

And I’m thinking of my mother, who’s probably not the most internet sophisticated person.  So if she goes to Google for 12 Years a Slave, and it automatically says ‘free’, you’re kind of enticing her to go that way.

So can you manipulate Auto Complete at all?

Oyama: I just want to be clear on the interaction between Auto Complete and search results.  You can go in and see what users are actually typing in.  And you can see that it’s the movies or an artist, and you can go into Google and type those queries in.  They are clean results.  And on any links that are a problem, we can take them out.  There are more than 23 million —

Rep. Richmond: No no, I understand the results.  But I’m strictly speaking on Auto Complete.

Oyama: The policy we have , it’s been an ongoing conversation with rights holders.  So our policy is we’ll accept terms, if rights holders are concerned these terms are closely associated with piracy.  We’ve accepted them, we’ve actually accepted almost every term, almost all the terms we’ve received.  But a word like ‘free’ you cannot strike, a word like just ‘music,’ things like that are associated with a lot of legitimate content offerings.

But if [the terms] pass that threshold, there’s been a good amount of coverage, there are definitely terms and words, services that can be removed.  And it’s not a finished conversation, so if there are more words that are concerning for folks, there should be an ongoing conversation, there are always new services and bad actors, and we want to keep that updated in real time.

Rep. Richmond: Well then, let me ask your opinion on something.  I represent New Orleans, which is a hotbed of creativity, whether it’s independent filmmakers, whether it’s musicians, and, whether it’s small authors who self-publish.  What advice would you give them in terms of protecting their copyright considering they’re probably not a big corporation and they’re just someone who loves music and would like to earn a living singing whatever they’re singing about.

I would just ask that you use your legal mind and pretend that the artist is your client, and how you would advise them to protect their copyright.  And insure that others are not making money off of that, especially when you look at the investment that people put out and life savings.  We don’t want people to just come and take their material.

So let me just say, and, especially with my time in the state legislature that, you know [pause].

Sometimes we’re forced to act, and I acknowledge that we’re probably not the best people to act on this, because technology changes so fast.  But if we’re forced to act, I don’t think anyone is going to like what we do because it wouldn’t be a comprehensive solution.

So I’d suggest that the stakeholders get together and figure it out.


52 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    “Congress Tells Google: Clean Up Your Search Results, Or We Will”

    ASAP, thank you!

    • danganjo

      The pot calling the kettle black .. how cute… How about we clean up congress first?

  2. Chris H

    Oyama: Some artists, the first thing they want is they want people to know who they are, they want to get their name recognition out. And from there, they use this popularity: songs go viral, they go number one on iTunes, they travel the world. These are good things to have the internet available, to have distribution of music.

    Rigggghhhtt, because this exact scenario has happened hundreds of times since the year 2000.

  3. Anonymous

    Does he know that “12 years a slave” was a book (now in public domain) before being a movie? Should Google filter requests that might be legitimate?

    • Anonymous

      If you knew anything about the hearing, you’d be aware that this is about Google providing access to a stolen version of the movie ’12 Years a Slave’.

      Here’s an exerpt from Huffington Post’s coverage:

      “Congresswoman Judy Chu, a job creation advocate from California, provided real time proof that Google was failing in burying pirated sites in their search results. Barely typing in a few keystrokes associated with the Oscar Winning Film, 12 Years a Slave, numerous pirate sites appeared immediately on her iPad near the top of Google’s first search page. Unfazed, the representative from Google continued to extoll the progress that was being made by her company in pushing these pirate sites down in their rankings.

      With Amazement, Ms. Chu alluded to the fact that at the very moment Google’s representative was responding, Ms. Chu was literally looking at search results on her iPad. Sometimes, reality is irrefutable, even when confronted by the sharpest of minds.”

      SOURCE: “Online Piracy Finally In the Crosshairs”, Huffington Post, 4/42014

      • Anonymous

        The problem I am pointing is that Google has no way to know what people mean by typing “12 years a slave”. It could be a book or the movie. So suggesting “free” after typing “12 years a slave” is totally legitimate. And it could only return links to the book.

        The “watch for free” is also legitimate by itself. At best, it could return now some page from the movie studio saying there is no legal source to watch it for free (now). Eventually later, there could be a service doing this (why not one backed by ads?).
        There is a number of full movies legally available online for free, so I don’t see why it would be bad asking if there is such a site now for any movie.

        The problem is not what people want, the auto complete feature showing exactly what people want, it is statistical and impartial. The problem is in the results people get. Should there be no illegal website in the results, the autocomplete wouldn’t be frowned upon.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t think you’re familiar with the issues we discuss here. But I can help:

          Google actively and aggressively encourages users to commit crime via its auto-complete feature.

          Let me explain how it works:

          If you want to buy Photoshop and you type ‘Adobe Photoshop’ in the search field, Google recommends that you steal the product instead.

          Here are Google’s suggestions:

          1) Adobe Photoshop cs6
          2) Adobe Photoshop free download
          3) Adobe Photoshop download
          4) Adobe Photoshop free
          5) Adobe Photoshop online
          6) Adobe Photoshop elements
          7) Adobe Photoshop serial number
          8) Adobe Photoshop cs6 free download
          9) Adobe Photoshop cs5
          10) Adobe Photoshop trial

          If you click suggestion #7, Google instantly recommends 2,490,000 criminal sites where you can download Photoshop serial numbers.

          It goes without saying that Google also encourages you to steal music, books and movies:

          Try a search for Ke$ha’s Tik Tok, for instance: One of the first auto-complete suggestions is ‘Ke$ha tik tok mp3’.

          Here are Google’s top results for that search:


          You’ll find the first legitimate result at #10 — if you get that far. Most people don’t…

          • Anonymous

            If those services are illegal, why are they still operating?

          • Anonymous

            “If those services are illegal, why are they still operating?”

            Why do you think the Pirate Bay is still operating? Because it’s legitimate?

            Newsflash: It’s not.

          • Anonymous

            They are intoxicated with advertising cash!
            If they suggest original site the advertisement of any kind will not be allowed.
            If they divert you to pirate they do not have to share ad income with the criminal.

            We got legal criminal under umbrella of the government!

            I like news posted in this report but we are just witnessing friction over minor issue in deeply engaged marriage

          • jw

            This is a really interesting topic. I think that Mrs Schneider’s testimony was a joke, & I would’ve loved to have heard a decent cross-examination from someone with even a cursory knowledge of how the internet works. Google has really dropped the ball, as far as that is concerned.

            Earlier in this comment thread, someone brought up Adobe Photoshop software piracy. Someone looking for a demo download or perhaps a free alternative to Photoshop might search “Adobe photoshop free download.” Someone who might be looking for instructions on how to recover their legitimate serial # could type in “Adobe Photoshop Serial.” Words combinations that can’t be construed as legal searches, such as “0 day,” “warez,” etc. have been removed. But what was Adobe’s response? Petitioning Google for stricter filtering? No, they moved to a cloud-based distribution model (Creative Cloud) that’s much more difficult to pirate.

            Similarly, sites like show up in results because they also are careful to avoid any word combinations that could be construed as illegal distribution by an automated detection mechanism. For example, if I search for “no rain mp3,” looking for the Blind Melon song, Google, & also mp3skull, are just as likely to list a sound effect file described as “No Rain at First, Thunderclap at 0:57” as they are to list the Blind Melon track. I can tell the difference, & you can tell the difference, & Mrs. Schneider & Mr. Richmond can tell the difference, but Google can’t. Not automatically, not without context that we all take for granted. Which makes it a case-by-case scenario.

            What if Jay Z wants to partner with Samsung to release his album for free? Shouldn’t people be allowed to search for “free Jay Z download?” Isn’t that relevant in this case?

            If the music industry had it’s way, blacklisting phrases willy nilly, the freedom of speech for a HUGE portion of the internet would be compromised. What if you couldn’t search for phrases as potentially benign as “black flag download?” Or what about names of songs or artists that are cultural references? Does the cultural reference itself become a casualty of congress’ efforts to “clean up” Google for copyright owners?

            What’s curious here is that Google seems to be the only party in this debate with an ounce of appreciation for the free speech of internet users. If I wanted to record a song & call it Black Flag & offer it up as a free mp3 download, Google is fighting for my right to have that included in their search result, despite the fact that there’s another band called Black Flag who might not want their music downloaded for free.

            I think that, therefore, it’s not the search engine’s responsibility to enforce these things. The infraction occurs when someone uploads copyrighted material to a server, & it should be dealt with right there on a case-by-case basis.

          • Anonymous

            If I want to search for “ke$ha tik tok mp3” and Google suggests download, it is fine. But it should only return legal services.

            And again, “adobe photoshop free download” could lead to a perfectly legal version of Photoshop (albeit a trial version). Then you speak of almost 2.5m websites with Adobe Photoshop serial number. Have you checked them all? Are you sure there is actually a serial there and it isn’t just a page with tons of viruses and ads? Most of those probably are like this and you will never get a real serial there. Also, it’s fine to suggest “serial number”, if you continue getting suggestions after it, you could get “lost” and some page explaining how to get back your lost and legal serial number.

            Again, you have a problem with the results and not the suggestion functionality itself which is perfectly valid in some contexts.

            If there is a perfectly good and legal use of Google’s tools, then you shouldn’t try to go against them, even if they may facilitate illegal activities. You don’t know what people are going to do with them and you can’t condemn a potential use just because it offends right holders.
            An analogy: Firearms are fine since they don’t do anything by themselves, only the user is responsible of their use and the firearm’s manufacturer isn’t responsible for what you might do with one be it defence, hunting or mass killing. There are legal use to have one (that one might disagree with) and illegal use.

          • Anonymous

            “Firearms are fine since they don’t do anything by themselves”

            I sometimes wonder if Google is proud of its remaining supporters. You know what they say — with friends like that…

          • Anonymous

            I don’t understand why Google needs to independently decide if a website is illegal or not. If the site is illegal, it should be shut down. Therefore, it won’t be indexed by Google. Because, well, it won’t exist to be indexed.

          • Anonymous

            Organized crime sites like the Pirate Bay move all the time and you can’t expect them to shut down just because you ask them to.

            But you can expect legitimate companies to block them.

            If some companies fail to do so, for instance by deliberately abusíng the DMCA, legislators need to step in and adjust the procedures.

            That’s what we’re witnessing now.

          • TH

            Google is simply a business listing search results for the most commonly typed phrases. There is nothing wrong with this. If the most popular thing when people type photoshop happens to be “stolen” serial numbers, there is nothing wrong with Google listing that. It is a legitimate business model. Their job is to help you find what you are looking for. On another note, the solution to the problem is not government intervention. Adobe is a wealthy company. They have the ability and technology to come up with a solution around people who download their product without paying. It would be to their advantage, wouldn’t it? Or perhaps Adobe should consider that their products are overpriced and that there is a need for an alternative software, that they could produce, at a lower price point.

    • David

      For the nth time, I point out that when it comes to spam, Google see no problem at all in deleting search results that are PROBABLY spam, even if there is a small chance they are not.

  4. wallow-T

    Congress may want to yell and stamp their feet, and they might even pass some legislation. But the trend in case law is that search engines and their results have First Amendment protections of free press and free speech.

    “In light of those principles, there is a strong argument to be made that the First Amendment fully immunizes search-engine results from most, if not all, kinds of civil liability and government regulation. … ”

    US District Judge Jesse M. Furman, in the summary judgement in favor of the Chinese search engine Baidu,, March 27 2014.

    • Anonymous

      “First Amendment protections of free press and free speech”

      Here’s the good news: Providing access to stolen property has nothing to do with free press and/or free speech.

      • Anonymous

        Actually committing theft is illegal. But information on how to be an effective thief is protected speech.

        • Anonymous

          “information on how to be an effective thief is protected speech”

          And so it should be. But that’s not relevant for this discussion.

          Here are the issues:

          1) Google actively encourages users to steal.
          2) Google provides direct access to stolen property.
          3) Google refuses to black-list well known organized crime sites, such as the Pirate Bay.

          After 10 years of pressure from parents and child care organizations, Google finally proved in 2013 how fast and easy it was to remove child abuse content permanently.

          Now the time has come to stolen music, software and movies.

          • Anonymous

            1) and 2) are just lies:

            1) Google indexes the web. It’s a card catalog for the web. There is nothing “direct” about that.
            2) Google does have any language on their website that tells you should download illegal content.

            3) Why should Google independently decide if a website is illegal or not? Applying our laws is the justice system’s job. If a website illegal a judge should provide Google with an injunction telling them what they need to do. Better yet, the judge should shut the illegal website down and thus Google will have nothing to index in the first place. Which is probably 1000000x more sensible then merely filtering search results.

          • Anonymous

            “1) and 2) are just lies”

            No, it is an indisputable fact that Google actively and repeatedly encourages its users to steal.

            Let me repeat how it works:

            I google “Adobe Photoshop”, because I wish to buy a license to use the programme, and Google recommends that I do a search for “Adobe Photoshop serial numbers” instead.

            Now, that’s not what I want, as it obviously doesn’t serve any legitimate purpose (legitimate Photoshop serial numbers can not be found via Google), and I never asked Google to help me commit any crimes.

            But Google’s business model is to provide and monetize access to other people’s Intellectual Property, stolen or not.

            So if I follow Google’s advice and click on the recommended link, I’m transferred to a Google ad for 2,490,000 criminal sites, claiming to offer the illegal Photoshop serial numbers that I never asked anybody to find.

            Google uses the same procedure to monetize access to stolen music, literature and movies.

            “Why should Google independently decide if a website is illegal or not?”

            Not sure what you mean; Google already does that thousands of times every day and I’m sure we all can agree that this is a good thing.

          • Anonymous

            “Not true.”

            Sure, it is — guess what happens if you

            a) Accuse your neighbour of murder,
            b) Yell “FIRE!” in a grocery store without reason, or
            c) Tell your wife you’re gonna kill her.

  5. Veteran - US MUSIC INDUSTRY 1970-today

    is the content we see and hear on radio and tv free to the consumer? It is perceived that way, yes. is the content we see and hear on the internet free to the consumer? It is perceived that way by my mother, and my children, yes. I understand the issue. I do not understand technology. But ultimately what people want is to turn on the radio, tv, or internet and receive content for free – or better said, they want someone else to pay for it.

    I have no scientific evidence to back up this view.

  6. revcletis

    I wonder if Congress realizes that Google has a framework in place to help copyright owners mitigate copyright/IP infringement, listed in the link below:

    Another question – why stop at Google ? How about bing, yahoo ask , etc. ad nauseam …
    Even if Congress could pass laws legalizing the censorship of search results, people who know how to use the ‘dark web’ will always find a way to get what they want, and sell it to others who are not as tech savvy at a premium . Can we say Prohibition (epic fail ), war on drugs (another epic fail ) ? Way to go Big Government !!!

    I am beginning to believe that some of these nimrods of the beltway are so slow they couldn’t pour p-ss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the heel.

  7. revcletis

    Legal – Any activity by which Big Government gets a piece of the action (e.g. money,control )
    Illegal -Any activity by which Big Government does not get a piece of the action (e.g. money,control )
    Once one applies this unorthodox definition to the world we live in, it all makes sense 🙂

  8. Jaque Bauer

    The Gestapo is here and its called Congress. How did America stray so far from its principles, or freedom ? The Obama regime has accelerated the move to control all that we see and hear, read, and say. They monitor all we do, and say that its for our own good. Its time we sack these morons. Current events are revealing a citizenry prepared to revolt with arms if necessary to oppose the government encroachments upon our freedoms and rights. Congress has forgotten that the Constitution exists to restrain government, and not to define the peoples rights.

    • Anonymous

      “The Gestapo is here and its called Congress”

      Ah, another comment from the pirate intelligentsia. 🙂

      “Its time we sack these morons”

      Hehe, yeah…

    • Jim

      I have a very simple solution to this problem. I wish I was famous for one day so that I could communicate it to the industry. Here it is:

      step 1. everyone in the industry, be it a songwriter, a band, a label, whatever, anyone who has an AdWords account, is notified by their friends and peers

      step 2. everyone goes into their AdWords accounts and pauses all campaigns.

      step 3. wait for Google’s shitty support to ask why all the accounts are paused

      step 4. tell them that the accounts will start resume giving ad money to Google when Google removes all piracy websites from Google Search

      They only care about money, people. They don’t have ethics, they don’t have a spine. They are only in it for the money. Realize it.

    • Versus

      What on earth are you talking about? Intellectual property rights are equated with Nazism?

  9. DUDE

    Wake me up when they actually propose some legislation

  10. hippydog

    This is kinda freaky
    When I first read about this I also went to google and typed in “12 years a slave”
    and on the first page was at least two torrent results..

    i just did it again today…
    guess what?
    the first page was nothing but legit results..

    Maybe.. just maybe.. something WILL come of this..

    Best statement was
    So I’d suggest that the stakeholders get together and figure it out.

    cause ya,, trust me.. canada tried to “help” with its copyright issues and within a decade the same laws created more problems then they fixed..

    you DO NOT want CONGRESS getting too involved in copyright, because what looks good at first becomes a big mess later..
    The DMCA is a great example.. (helpful in some ways, messy in others)

  11. Angry programmer

    Google is in bed with NSA, selling data to all the agencies in the world.

    And they have the nerve to put their paid bloggers to call Congress “the Gestapo”?

    Mr. Snowden deserves to be welcome back home as a hero. He deserves a medal, not prison.

    Guess what Larry Page has to say about this? NO COMMENT.

    • Anonymous

      “Google is in bed with NSA, selling data to all the agencies in the world”

      Here’s an interesting exerpt from a Guardian story today (I’ll post the link in a separate comment below):

      “Döpfner [Europe’s largest news publisher] argued that there had been a “fundamental shift in opinion” about Google among European citizens since Edward Snowden had revealed “close connections between big US online providers and the US intelligence agencies” last year. “No one knows as much about its customers as Google. Even private and business emails are read by Gmail and analysed if the need exists,” he said. He described the view, which he attributed to both Schmidt and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg in response to the NSA revelations, that “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”, as disconcerting.

      “It stands for a mental attitude and a view of the world that is common in totalitarian regimes, not in free societies. The head of the Stasi or any other secret service in a dictatorship could have come out with a line like that.”

      Referring to Google’s recent acquisition of drone manufacturer Titan Aerospace he said: “Is Google really planning a digital superstate … ?”

  12. vicky

    My Ex-Husband dumped me two weeks ago after because i accused him of seeing someone else and insulting him. I want him back in my life but he refused to have any contact with me, i was so confused and i didn’t know what to do, so i had to go to the internet for help and i saw a testimony of how a spell caster helped people to get their ex back so i contacted the spell caster and explained my problem to him and he did a love spell for me and assured me that after 3days, my ex will return to me and to my greatest surprise the third day my ex came knocking at my door begging for forgiveness. I am so happy that my love is back again and not only that, we are about to get married. Once again thank you Esango Priest, You are truly a great man. He can be of great help and I will not stop publishing him on the internet because he is a wonderful man, you can reach him via

    • Anonymous

      BBC has more about Mr. Dopfner’s unprecendented attack on Google today:

      “Turning his attention to Google founder Larry Page, Mr Dopfner said: “He dreams of a place with no privacy laws and without democratic accountability.”

      Referring to comments Mr Page had made about the company wanting to develop ideas but being unable to because they were illegal, Mr Dopfner said: “Does this mean that Google is planning to operate in a legal vacuum, without the hassle of anti-trust and privacy? A kind of superstate?”

      He finished the letter with a warning to Google that in the history of economics monopolies do not survive long.”


      So Google is now at war with artists, musicians, writers, software developers, Hollywood, the EU Commision, the US Congress and Europe’s largest news publisher.

      What could possibly go wrong, Mr. Schmidt?

      • Anonymous

        Google is literally buying out all the military robot companies and strong AI companies in the world. They are spending billions on this weird fetish. Hollywood warned about this in the movie Terminator. Cyberdyne = Google.

  13. Anonymous

    Sweet bastard! Schmidts gotta be shitting his drawers over this!

  14. TH

    This is censorship and a violation of the first amendment. Not to mention unnecessary government intrusion on business practices…

    • Anonymous

      “This is censorship”

      Most ridiculous comment yet.

    • Versus

      No, it isn’t. No one has a right to intellectual property theft. The 1st Amendment grants no such right.