The Recording Industry Association of America has petitioned Google to edit its search results, removing websites that facilitate Internet piracy. The RIAA, which represents the biggest record labels in the music industry, lobbied Google to remove nearly 10 million search results from May 2011 up to Feb. 1, according to the search giant’s most recent transparency report.
Among the most popular targets of the RIAA were Filestube and MP3 Searchy, both sites received hundreds of thousands of takedown requests.
In the past Google has been accused of looking the other way from Internet piracy, in part because it reaps financial rewards from advertising placement. Now anyone hoping to illegally download music or movies usually has to install a torrent client like uTorrent or Vuze, but years ago pirates could have simply used a Google search and found a .zip or .rar file and saved it directly to their computer.
In December, Digital Music News published statements from Google legal director Fred Von Lohman, who complained publicly about how many copyright takedown requests he was getting from copyright holders.
“As policymakers evaluate how effective copyright laws are, they need to consider the collateral impact copyright regulation has on the flow of information online,” Von Lohman said. “When we launched the copyright removals feature, we received more than 250,000 requests per week. That number has increased tenfold in just six months to more than 2.5 million requests per week today. While we're now receiving and processing more requests more quickly than ever (on average, within approximately six hours), we still do our best to catch errors or abuse so we don’t mistakenly disable access to non-infringing material.”
Digital Music News has since speculated that the RIAA is employing the “avalanche method” to combat illegal downloading, an aggressive tactic that could be effective in some ways but damaging in others.
“Which means the tactic could be extremely effective outside of the Google theater. After all, Google can bitch all they want, but they can handle it,” they wrote. “But what about smaller, struggling opponents, like Grooveshark? Here's where a massive avalanche could be extremely effective: After all, Grooveshark is currently saddled with massive legal bills and, according to our sources, exiting personnel. All of which makes a sudden avalanche a major compliance problem, and a serious legal vulnerability.”
A TorrentFreak report indicated that Warner Bros. representatives tried sending DMCA requests to Google regarding Mega’s hosting of movie files, only to find out they sent Google the wrong URLs before being told Mega was not listed on Google anyway.
The dilemma is evidence of the continued, yet laborious, shift from illegally downloading media content to paid, streaming services like Spotify, Netflix and the like.