MPAA: 82 Percent Of Searches Leading To Pirated Content Come From Google

online-computer-piracy-240pxThe Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) today accused Google and other search engines of playing “a significant role” in directing consumers to pirated movies and TV shows, with a special callout for the amount of Google searches that lead to infringing material.

It’s the latest volley in a long-running battle between Hollywood and the search engines over the easy online availability of stolen content and whose job it is to clean up the problem.

MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd — the former US Senator — introduced the results of a new study during a news conference today in Washington, DC. In the MPAA’s news release (PDF), Dodd says search engines share responsibility for stopping the theft of copyrighted material.

Search engines bear responsibility for introducing people to infringing content — even people who aren’t actively looking for it. The television and movie community is working every day to develop new and innovative ways to watch content online, and as the Internet’s gatekeepers, search engines share a responsibility to play a constructive role in not directing audiences to illegitimate content.

The MPAA’s study found that 74 percent of consumers said they had used a search engine the first time that they visited a website with copyright-infringing content, and 58 percent of those searches contained general keywords like the names of TV shows or searches to watch something online, not keywords that specifically referred to finding infringing content.

Google’s Role In Surfacing Pirated Content

The MPAA called out Google for its role in leading consumers to infringing material. According to the survey, 82 percent of all searches that led to web pages with illegal content came from Google. (The study says 16 percent found the content via Bing/Yahoo and two percent via other search engines.)

Further, the MPAA says that Google’s Pirate Update last August did nothing to harm sites with illegal content.

The study also found no evidence that the change Google made to its algorithm last year to take into account the number of copyright takedown notices a site has received had an impact on search-referred traffic to infringing sites. The share of referral traffic from Google to infringing sites included in the Google Transparency Report remained flat in the three months following Google’s implementation of the change last August.

The MPAA study (PDF download here) was done by and uses both US and UK consumer data in its findings. Compete says it looked at the top 2,000 websites listed in Google’s transparency reports ranked by number of removal requests. This chart shows traffic to infringing sites in the three months before and after the Pirate Update in August 2012.


There are, of course, flaws in the study (as there are in many studies). For example, not all websites/URLs listed in Google’s transparency report actually host infringing content. (Google evaluates all removal requests and acts on the legitimate ones, but this is basically an eternal game of whack-a-mole because infringing content that’s removed from one site very often shows up on a new site very quickly.)

Google announced late last year that it had removed 50 million web pages from its index in response to the same piracy reports that the MPAA study mentions as part of Google’s transparency reporting. In July, Google’s Eric Schmidt said Hollywood should take pirates to court to prevent privacy, rather than focus on getting search engines to remove websites after the piracy takes place.

(tip via LA Times)

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Legal | Google: Pirate Update | Legal: Copyright | Top News


About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • Michael Martinez

    Compete’s traffic estimates for most websites are wildly inaccurate in my experience. I’m not sure there is any real validity to the estimates. Which is not to say I am defending Google. I’m just saying I don’t trust Compete.

  • ToppleTrack

    These stats are waaaaay off. We work in the exact same space ( and actually monitor the rankings of sites that have a record of infringing notices. Since that announcement rankings for any/all sites that are infringing have dropped drastically. Google has made incredible strides in this arena and continues to develop their reporting platform and removal processes.

  • kennova

    What a useless study.. 82% of a small number is still a small number. In addition, the group that is defining “infringing content” is the same group that can’t tell the difference between infringing content and content they uploaded in their own lawsuits. (Viacomm v. YouTube). To categorize the queries as not seeking infringement is incredibly difficult to do. This whole study has a huge margin of error based on wildly subjective definitions of “Infringing content”, “Fair Use” and “Seeking infringing content”

  • GovSource

    So true!!

  • Matt McGee

    If you have some data you can share, I’d love to see it. Contact us —


  • George Michie

    The fact that Google drives ~ 80% of all search makes the fact that they drive ~80% of pirate search somewhat less surprising to me.

  • phr3ak

    I agree, Compete is very inaccurate. They use to be a good source, but for over a year or more they’ve been completely unreliable… Alexa is more reliable.

  • phr3ak

    Yeah I would say the stats are way off… perhaps even fabricated by the MPAA to con Google into taking action. Hollywood needs to find new ways to engage users to stream/buy their works at a more affordable rate, Netflix is a start but does not have lot of the good stuff. The rich people are just greedy, and if they censor the web like they plan, well they will be even less rich cause people wont just buy a BluRay or DVD without seeing/listening to it 1st (in most cases).

    Might I add in most cases, when a movie is released after the 1st week they’ve grossed double the production value of the movie. That does not include all other sales that follow… Greedy, Greedy, Greedy… and they wonder why people pirate their stuff. 90% of people cannot afford to buy every movie they want to watch, otherwise everyone would be working just for their movie collection and economy would certainly crash.

  • ToppleTrack

    Would love to, be in touch tomorrow!

  • Brett Dixon

    I’d imagine 82% of any search pretty much comes from Google – hardly Googles fault. What a pointless statistic.

    What’s next:

    82% of searches for twerking come from Google – Google not Miley Cyrus responsible for Twerking Phenomenon…Damn you Google.

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