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Censoring Google is the Cure for Piracy?

Danny Goodwin
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google-piracy.jpgWhile President Obama's administration plans to increase its efforts fighting websites by seeking to make it a felony to illegally stream copyrighted works and obtain wiretaps for suspected intellectual property crimes, Congress is weighing whether it can force search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to delist "rogue" piracy websites.

Google's results are at issue, says Frederick Huntsberry, chief operating officer of Paramount Pictures, because searches such as [stream movies] return Solar Movies, a site filled with links to pirated content.

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He says a law is needed to level the playing field between legitimate providers and piracy sites that can be found four or five clicks after a Google search.

"Unfortunately, search engines routinely point people to rogue websites, including in situations where the customer is looking for a legitimate site," Maria Pallante, acting U.S. register of copyrights, said in prepared testimony to the House Judiciary Committee. "In fact, sometimes the illegitimate sites appear much higher in search results, displacing authorized sources of copyrighted content."

Her solution would see Congress enact laws to prevent U.S. advertising networks from placing ads on piracy websites, and to cut off income these sites receive via PayPal and credit card companies. However, she also noted that censoring access to web content could violate free speech laws.

Google's efforts so far at self-censorship have included removing selected piracy terms from Instant and Autocomplete, although this ended up wiping out many innocent sites in the process. Many "big" offenders (e.g., Pirate Bay) were unaffected, however, and basic search suggestions still will easily lead searchers to piracy sites.

Interestingly, one reason given by major networks, including ABC, NBC and CBS, for blocking their shows from Google TV devices last year was because of Google's unknown policy on piracy.

Censoring search engine results was an idea put forward by Daniel Castro of Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. Once identified, the sites would then be reported to the search engines, which would then be forced to block them from appearing.

But, the root problem of piracy won't be solved by censoring search results, according to a Media Piracy Project report. The real issue seems to be a combination of inflated prices and artificially delaying the release of products to other countries.

Perhaps rather than spending millions lobbying Congress and fighting a few websites or forcing search engines to censor search results, Hollywood could figure out a new, more affordable and smarter global delivery model that would render piracy obsolete?


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