Google has released a 26-page report detailing how it strives to balance the rights of copyright owners against fair use policies and individual users. The search giant has come under increasing fire from copyright owners over the past few years, and faced repeated accusations that it earns enormous amounts of money from the ads that run on pirate websites. Meanwhile, the company's YouTube
takedown policy has been criticized at times from the other end, particularly when it's used to remove content that someone else found inconvenient, embarrassing, or just didn't like
One of the changes Google
made fairly recently was its agreement to begin de-ranking pages that attracted a high number of legitimate copyright claims. The report notes that such claims have skyrocketed, from three million total in 2011 to four million a week
in 2012. It also makes the point that the overwhelming majority of sites don't actually rely on search engine traffic for much in the way of hits -- only some 16% of web traffic is driven to The Pirate Bay from search engines.
Now, 16% of total traffic to popular piracy sites is, to be sure, a great deal of traffic -- but it's nowhere near a majority. And search queries for where to steal content are dwarfed by actual, legitimate queries for content.
If you've ever been curious about how Google manages these disparate goals or wanted to see the company's efforts described in full, regardless of whether you think it does too much or not enough, this report is a good read -- which is, of course, why the RIAA promptly slagged it.
This Is Why No One Likes The Recording Industry
Whether you agree or disagree with Google's report
or its recommendations for creating more legitimate ways to enjoy content as opposed to vexatious litigation, this is a thorough document. At 7,162 words, there's a lot to disagree or agree with. That's why the RIAA
took the time to put together a careful, robust, and rational response to the many valuable points the web giant raises.
The RIAA's "response" to Google's report is a scant 180 words. It states, in part:
But ultimately, the appropriate benchmarks are metrics that demonstrate that piracy has been reduced. As much as Google may be doing, Benjamin Franklin cautioned that we must ‘never confuse motion for action.’ At least in the case of search results, for all of the motion being generated by both Google and the RIAA -- our search removal requests will hit 30 million this week -- it is increasingly clear we are making insufficient progress against piracy.
It is in everyone’s interest to sit down and agree on steps Google can take that will actually make a demonstrable difference in the lives of the music community. We should figure out how, by working together, we can better promote the extensive array of digital music services and ensure that all those notices and take downs actually reduce piracy.
Folks, this is what a blow-off looks like. It implies that everything Google has done is exchange motion for action, with no visible impact or improvement in the lives of the music community. But it doesn't even bother to make those claims in a cohesive or defended way that might lead to robust discussion. Instead, this is a kneejerk "Nuh-uh!"
This is what it looks like when a group is so wedded to a narrative, it literally cannot consider alternative voices. In the RIAA's world, Google must be falsely monetizing content and destroying the lives of musicians, because SOMEONE has to be held responsible for the damage. Never mind that the damages are inflated, the harm uncertain, and the evidence questionable. In the RIAA's world, reality is dismissed because it fails to conform to the needs of a top-heavy business model that rewards producers, executives, and recording studios far more than the actual artists.
I'm no advocate of piracy. I do not believe the argument that piracy isn't theft because no goods are stolen. Even if you aren't harming someone's ability to sell a copy of a work elsewhere, you enrich yourself unjustly by seizing the benefit of a product for which you have not paid. But the RIAA destroys any opportunity to seriously discuss the problem when it handwaves a massive data disclosure with a handwaved "Now let's talk about REAL solutions."
There are no real solutions the RIAA is ever going to accept as good enough.