Google, some anti-piracy groups inadvertently aiding piracy?

 

Published August 11, 2012

Negligent technical processes in the online space are now making it easier and faster than ever to discover and illegally download content via search engines.

Google’s newly released Transparency Report has been a hot topic since the search giant launched its data expose’ this summer, and the media have been quick to pick up on topical trends. Fast becoming a quick-fix staple for anti-piracy technology companies (including MUSO), along with government agencies, individuals and copyright holders of all shapes and forms, the monthly report details all DMCA takedown requests received by Google.

Behind their transparency report, lies the chilling effects database, an unedited and unabridged breakdown of each and every takedown request processed, detailing the content, and each and every illegal link discovered online.

MUSO provides an end-to-end antipiracy service, which means a total takedown removal process, starting with removing the source of the illegal content – the cyberlockers hosting the files, the torrent files which allow users to share your content.

Once this process begins, our technology then switches focus to the search engine results for the blogs and message boards promoting the illegal files, also presenting the user with a suggested list of results for removal on the MUSO dashboard.

Generally, we don’t include the blogs and message boards for which we’ve already successfully removed content for, as we encourage a ‘negative-user experience’ when searching for illegal content ‐ a user visits Google, searches for your content illegally, discovers the blog or message board promoting the content and attempts to download only to discover the link has been disabled.

However, we have discovered that our end-to-end process is something that has not been adopted by an industry that often looks to sell anti-piracy solutions that look for short-term, high-visibility but ultimately low‐impact results. Google takedowns are the easiest to discover and remove, and most visible links for many upstart anti-piracy organisations to deliver to their clients, but during a month-long study, we’ve concluded that almost all of these search engine takedowns do not include the background work in discovery and removal of the offending source pages themselves.

Taking a step back, what this means in real terms: a user visits Google, searches for your content illegally, and discovers Google’s highly visible ‘Chilling Effects’ disclaimer in the search results, clicks through and discovers the list of illegal source pages that have been requested for takedown. The problem: these links, although removed from the Google search results, still include the live links, which the rights-holder or anti-piracy agency has failed to takedown.

MUSO have been monitoring the percentage of links still available for download via Chilling Effects/Google TP for a weekly sample of 300 different titles throughout July 2012.

Major pirated media titles download links

Random daily sample of the same 30 major titles (not using MUSO), 2,000 links checked for each sample.

Our understanding is that Google Takedown requests for content are, more often than not, not being synchronised with takedown request against the source content itself, and as highlighted above, is inadvertently creating a store of readily available illegal downloads in a fast and simple interface, on any Page 1 search via Google.

We are seeing a current trend of search engine takedown requests which, in many instances, are leading to customers discovering illegal content in a faster and more convenient way than previous methods of searching through blogs for live links ‐ and the takedown statistics from Google’s transparency report paint a worrying picture of month-to-month increases in takedown volumes.

MUSO strongly advocates a multi-faceted approach to anti-piracy that understands and responds to online behaviour accordingly to ensure the illegal option is a consistently negative user experience, and the legal alternative a faster, better quality and price conscious option. As the percentage of illegal downloading through search engine discovery increases year-on-year, the importance of understanding the visibility and in protecting your premium content via the search engine searches becomes ever more crucial.


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