It’s that time of year. The time of year where Google rolls out a shiny update on its “How Google Fights Piracy” report. Google began the tradition in 2013. At the time I noted that Google’s claim to be a “leader” in the fight against piracy was its first mistake. With today’s update, it appears the Silicon Valley giant hasn’t backed down from that dubious claim (or many others).
Katie Oyama, Senior Policy Counsel, Google asserts that, “We take protecting creativity online seriously, and we’re doing more to help battle copyright-infringing activity than ever before.” Yet, in spite of Oyama’s rosy quote, in truth the reality (for creators) battling online piracy continues to be a bleak one.
Google search continues to list pirate links at the top of results
For the moment I’ll focus on Google search. The report claims, “…Google does not want to include any links to infringing material in our search results, and we make significant efforts to prevent infringing webpages from appearing.” It goes on to outline what Google’s doing to remedy the issue including this nugget:
Google believes that providing convenient, compelling, legitimate alternatives is one of the best means of fighting piracy. Accordingly, Google has launched a number of initiatives to present legitimate alternatives to users as part of search results, including providing advertisements on queries for movies and music to link users to legitimate means of purchasing content.
The reports also notes that it has focused on providing, “Clean results for media-related queries users actually type: Thanks to the efforts of Google’s engineers, the vast majority of media-related queries that users submit every day return results that include only legitimate sites.”
Oh Yeah, I’ve heard this line before, but unfortunately it isn’t true. This morning, after taking a gander at the report I went to Google search to search for the recent indie film Carol. I typed in a pretty logical query–the kind “users submit every day” — choosing the phrase “watch Carol online.” The VERY TOP RESULT took me–instantly–to a full, high-quality, pirated, illegal stream of the film.
Ok, so maybe the word “online” is too linked to piracy….so let’s drop the term and use only the terms, “watch Carol,” the first result was identical and led to the same pirated stream. Yeah, there was was ad offering legit links at the top (which is a good thing) but unfortunately pirated versions remained front and center and at #1 in the actual search results..
So much for their well-oiled talking point. The fact is that Google search still provides a direct path to pirated content.
If some innocent person is simply looking for a way to (legally) watch Carol uses Google search instead of wheretowatch.com, why does the FIRST link in Google’s results offer a pirated version? I didn’t say I wanted to “watch Carol free” I said merely that I wanted to “watch Carol.” Is that a pretty standard approach to consuming movies??? Watching them???
Does Google really believe that watch isn’t a term people use every day to search for a movie online?
Google’s auto-complete suggests piracy-linked search terms
The only time I found somewhat clean results was by using the term “Carol movie.” Now, forgive me, but it someone is looking to “watch” a film doesn’t it make sense they’d use that same term in a search query? Apparently Google’s engineers didn’t think so. For them it seems that using the term “watch” is not a word worthy of inclusion amid their “vast quantity of media-related queries” when it comes to searching for a film title?
It’s also important to note that when I started typing in the terms “Carol mov…” Google’s own auto-complete provided the suggestion (carol movie online) which leads directly to the same pirated stream of Carol listed at #1 (see below).
Didn’t Google’s engineering wizards notice this when they supposedly tweaked their algorithms to “return results that include only legitimate sites?”
I’ll be examining Google’s report further and will follow up with another post, but I couldn’t let the announcement of this update slide by with nary a mention. There’s much more to sift through, but I’d venture to guess it will be more of the same old, same old. As I noted in my analysis of an earlier version of this Google report:
After reading it I think a more accurate title would be “Why Google Shouldn’t Have to Fight Piracy Because it Offers so Much Other Good Stuff.”
While the report does outline various positive steps Google’s taken (under duress) to mitigate its role in incentivizing and enabling piracy, most of the document reads more like an evangelical tome as to how their innovations have benefited content creators, blunting any collateral damage that may have occurred. In other words, let’s overlook the bad in favor of the good…
I have a feeling not much will have changed…If there’s any truth in the claim that Google is “doing more” it’s because it’s allowing more pirated content than ever on its products.