The 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 Compete.com 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)