RIAA Accuses Google Of Not Doing Enough To Fight Piracy, But May Be Guilty Of Not Doing Enough Itself

riaa-google-logosThe Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has once again come out swinging at Google, saying the company isn’t doing enough to fight copyright infringement online. But it may be that the RIAA itself is guilty of that charge.

In a blog post this week, RIAA Executive VP Brad Buckles shares what the organization calls “clear facts” about Google’s efforts to remove infringing pages from Google’s search results. A week ago, Google announced the addition of Copyright Removal Requests to its Transparency Report, but Buckles says “Google’s data misleads.”

In a series of five “facts,” the RIAA lays out what amounts to two primary complaints:

  • Google “places artificial limits on the number of queries that can be made by a copyright owner to identify infringements.”
  • Google “also limits the number of links we can ask them to remove per day.”

The RIAA says these limits keep it from finding and requesting removal of piracy-related web pages related to the Billboard Top 10 songs, let alone all pirated material on the web.

Piracy & Search Results: A Battleground

No one debates the fact that there’s a lot of piracy happening online and, a look at one query even shows how the search results have become a battleground of sorts. Consider a search for “katy perry fireworks mp3.” After Google’s 10 main search results, there are another 21 messages from Google explaining that a total of 36 pages have been removed from the page already. (In the screenshot below, the copyright removal notices take up about 1,000 vertical pixels while the search results take up about 500 pixels.)


RIAA & Limits

Ignoring the fact that the RIAA isn’t accusing Bing (where its search results for the same query seem just as bad) of not doing enough to prevent piracy, let’s look at the group’s two accusations against Google.

Query limits. 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. Google also explains that its Terms of Service don’t allow sending automated search queries without advance permission. Depending on how the RIAA is trying to find infringing material, it could be hitting the query limit and/or be in violation of Google’s TOS.

Takedown request limits. The RIAA accuses Google of limiting how many takedown requests it can send. A Google spokesperson denies that charge in a statement shared with Search Engine Land:

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.

What makes the RIAA’s claim questionable is Google’s list of most active copyright owners that have submitted removal requests. The RIAA is fifth with about 44,000 requests over the past month, but that’s less than 10 percent of the requests that Microsoft has submitted, and about one-fifth of the requests from NBC Universal.

Limit or not, it looks like the RIAA isn’t nearly as active as other organizations in asking Google to remove infringing URLs. It may believe that Google isn’t doing enough on this issue, but the numbers suggest that the RIAA can do more itself.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Google: Critics | Google: Legal | 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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  • http://twitter.com/cryptblade cryptblade

    I hate the RIAA. They are dinosaurs – like unions. They need to be eradicated like by the scourge of God

  • http://cl.lk/23qx8aq Elizabeth H. Crane

    They need to be eradicated like. http://WorkInFaceBook.notlong.com

  • http://www.facebook.com/steve.labinski Steve Labinski

    What if you produce creative works but do not have the luxury of paying a team of lawyers to work full time researching and sending DCMA requests?  What’s the point of this article?  So what?  Google still pumps users to websites that give away copyrighted material away free.

    Capitalism works when property rights are protected, and right now if you are a creator, your property rights aren’t – partially because of pirate websites but also because search engines feed them their customers.  

    We’re all the poorer for it.

  • onixblack

    First off…what lol

  • onixblack

    Not true, only large corporation become poorer. Most small time artist have a strong relationship with their fans and can make money from the relationships that they have. Search engines just index everything that’s online into a simple format that we can all understand, your making it seem like Google and other search engines are out to get the fabric of capitalism…

  • http://www.facebook.com/totalkunt Sarah Lish

    If you are a music artist, how much good does it do for you if no one hears your song. The only people worried about their copyrights are the record labels (and a handful of artists). The record labels don’t care that they are putting out music that no one wants to hear or pay for as long as their profits increase but the minute the profits drop it is much easier to scream that its someone else’s fault.

  • http://www.galoor.com/ Clint Lenard

    The RIAA is a joke. Who cares if someone isn’t doing their job as the RIAA expects? That organization should be wiped off the face of the earth. I wonder if anyone working there is under the age of 80? 

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