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RIAA Inaccurately Criticizes Google’s Transparency

When organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA want to complain about the tech industry not helping with the fight against piracy, inevitably, their focus turns to Google. Bing? Not so much, but if you...
RIAA Inaccurately Criticizes Google’s Transparency
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  • When organizations like the MPAA and the RIAA want to complain about the tech industry not helping with the fight against piracy, inevitably, their focus turns to Google. Bing? Not so much, but if you’re going to rattle cages, make sure it’s the one with the biggest lion inside, I suppose. Take the latest blog post from the RIAA, which questions the accuracy of Google’s transparency report, with a misguided approach, which is bolded below:

    Knowing the total number of links to infringing material available and the limitations Google imposes on rights owners to search for infringements reveals how meager the number of notices is relative to the vast amount of infringement. After all, as recently highlighted here, search for any major recording artist’s track and the term “mp3,” and you’ll find that most of the very first results offered by Google direct people to infringing material. Unfortunately, one sees similar results when one searches for any popular creative content followed by the words “free download.”

    The bolded section would indicate that Google limits the amount of searches RIAA officials can when looking for infringing material, which an interesting way of twisting something to fit your needs. As SearchEngineLand points out:

    Google will occasionally throttle suspicious search activity; this may happen, for example, at conferences or events where several hundred people (or more) are searching Google all from the same IP address.

    But that’s not the same as “limitations Google imposes on rights owners to search for infringement” now is it? Apparently, the key to a successful RIAA career is all in how you twist the meaning of something. Yes, Google will throttle suspicious search activity, but a couple of RIAA interns searching for infringement is not the same thing, unless the RIAA is using automated queries. It should come as no surprise that Google is quite clear about their postion:

    Google’s Terms of Service do not allow the sending of automated queries of any sort to our system without express permission in advance from Google. Sending automated queries absorbs resources and includes using any software (such as WebPosition Gold™) to send automated queries to Google to determine how a website or webpage ranks in Google search results for various queries.

    …But who cares about accuracy matter when bombast is your goal? Case in point: the blog post also mentions Google limits the amount of infringement notices an entity can file:

    But Google places artificial limits on the number of queries that can be made by a copyright owner to identify infringements. These limits significantly decrease the utility of Google’s take down tool given the vast nature of the piracy problem today and the number of titles we are trying to protect. The number of queries they allow is miniscule, especially when you consider that Google handles more than 3 billion searches per day. Yet Google has denied requests to remove this barrier to finding the infringements.

    Don’t tell Microsoft that. Who knows, maybe Google likes Microsoft more than it does the RIAA. Truth be told, it’s surprising this kind of argument wasn’t issued on the blog post in question. Furthermore, Google denies restricting the amount of takedown notices one can file in SearchEngineLand’s post:

    We have never imposed any limit on the number of DMCA notices that a copyright owner or reporting organization may send us, although we do have some technical safeguards in our trusted partner program (where submitters may be using automated mechanisms to send large volumes) as a safeguard against accidental flooding of the system.

    In other words, Google has some anti-spam measures in place, which indicates perhaps the RIAA should reexamine their method of submission. That, or perhaps follow Microsoft’s strategy and outsource such tasks. SearchEngineLand also points out that the RIAA is not as active with their requests as Microsoft is, meaning the problem still lies on the RIAA’s end.

    Considering Google’s willingness to takedown infringing results–they boast a 97 percent removal rate–the RIAA’s approach is confusing and misguided. Perhaps if they included other search engines in their slash-and-burn posts, it would be easier to take them seriously. As it stands, trying to single out Google with half-truths and misplaced accusations rings hollow, or at least it should. One hopes the average reader takes a look at both sides of the argument before choosing a side.

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