The role Google, as well as Bing, Yahoo! and other search engines play in making it easy to find pirated content and illegal streams has been a controversial one, to say the least, in recent months. In fact, this specific subject has been bubbling since 2011, although in reality the problem existed long before that, when the United States Congress said Google should be doing more to filter and remove pirated content from search results.
Although Google has looked at a number of initiatives since that time, including a brochure that explains what they’ve done so far and their plans for the future, criticism of the search giant is still rife.
The latest group to fire a shot at Google is the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). Not only have they said Google and other search providers don’t do enough to prevent consumers accessing pirated content through search engines, they’ve gone further and outright accused Google of being a “gateway” to pirated content, saying the company plays “a significant role” in the ease with which such content can be found.
Part of the issue is that Hollywood and Google spend a lot of time at odds with each other over who is responsible for solving the problem. One gets the feeling that if both the film companies and Google worked together, there’d be an easy solution.
A study conducted by the MPAA found that 74% of people who accessed pirate content stated that a search engine had enabled them to do so for the first time. While it is easy to think that this number should perhaps even be higher, given anyone can search terms related to streaming or torrents, for example, the more alarming stat was that 58% found pirated content easily just by searching a general term, such as the name of a TV show.
This study in no small part contradicts research carried out by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA), who published a paper in August 2013 stating that search engines have little to do with the promotion of pirated content.
Do both the MPAA & the CCIA have a point, or is it a case of different groups conducting research to fit their message and objectives?
While the MPAA has taken issue with search engines as a whole, they have been particularly scathing of Google, claiming that they are responsible for 82% of searches that lead a person to illegal online content. For the record, Bing & Yahoo! combined for 16%, with the rest of the industry making up the final 2% collectively.
For their part, Google released a ‘pirate update’ in August 2012, while TorrentFreak calculated that over 50million URLs were removed from search results by Google last year alone. Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt, also stated in a July 2013 interview with Variety that film companies ought to do more to tackle the problem at source, rather than expecting the search engines to deal with it after the crime – piracy – has already been committed.
While Google acknowledges its role in tackling online piracy, they shouldn’t be held to account for it in its entirety. They’d probably admit themselves that they could do more, but there needs to be more proactivity from the other stakeholders involved, rather than a continuing pointing of fingers and denying of responsibility from most parties.