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Copyright Position

Google Reinforcing Copyright Position

December 7, 2010

The candid belief that Google is just a messenger bringing good and bad content to surfers and concerned only with one criteria, ‘relevance’, is dissipating.It was once the copyright owner’s duty, not Google’s, to chase the pirates. But the tides are changing in favour of copyright owners as Google volunteers to share responsibility for enforcement. To date their Teflon reputation is second to none. Parrying a $1 billion copyright infringement law suit from Viacom and emerging with their position vindicated, you would maybe expect them to sit on their laurels for a while. Rather, they maintain that they are “protected when they work cooperatively with copyright holders” .

Cooperation and Copyright
So to give pace to this spirit of cooperation, Google announced last week 4 major changes over the coming months to pick off the ‘bad apples who use the internet to infringe copyright

The first is to achieve an average takedown response time of 24 hours. Copyright holders can now expect a rapid response from Google services.

The second is to stop ‘Autocomplete’ from bringing up terms ‘closely associated with piracy’. So for example if you enter ‘Download’ into Google you will no longer see the extension ‘pirated software’.

The third is to improve Adsense anti-piracy policies and procedures. Adsense is a service where Google pays for their ads to be posted on other people’s sites. Google will be improving measures to identify and expel copyright violators from the AdSense program.

The last development is to prioritise legitimate content in Google search results. They want to make legitimate content ‘easier to index and find’.

Behind this is the concern of Google’s to cooperate with copyright owners but at the same time the timing here is important. The new OICA Bill passed the Senate in November and will give copyright enforcement more teeth both in the US and internationally. Separately, Google’s entry into TV needed legitimacy to ‘further improve relations with the music, TV and movie giants’.

Tech challenge

What is remarkable is Google’s technological method of picking out bad apples. For example,

Content ID is a video identification referencing system provided by Google to allow copyright owners to track the uploading by users of their copyrighted works. Google says every ‘major media company’ uses the tool and they have a database of 4 million files.

Most of the measures introduced last week, appear to improve rather than innovate their systems. However the last measure of prioritising authorised content is an experiment and possibly a controversial one. One wonders if this mild aspect of censorship is really worth having or is it a slippery slope away from web neutrality?