With New Search Parameters, Google May Actually be Taking Action to Cut Down on Pirated Material

What happened to you Google? You used to be cool.

As part of their collaboration with the film and music industry, Google is working on modifying its search engine parameters to filter out pirated material. Google’s current search method works off of hundreds of variables to determine which webpages are the most relevant to your search. The largest factor is possibly your page rank, which is determined, in part, by how many sites link from you.

A new variable will soon be added, however, that takes into account the number of valid copyright removal notices a site receives. Basically, the more that a site receives, the lower they fall on the overall search rankings. Since Google is processing more copyright claims than ever before, they feel that they are primed to recognize sites with pirated material, and divert searchers to legal sites like Hulu, and Spotify instead for their content needs.

So far the Recording Industry Association of America, and the Motion Picture Association of America are both highly supportive of this move as they feel it represents the largest step ever taken by Google to protect copyrights and combat piracy, and are happy to be getting support from one of the biggest companies in opposition against the recent Stop Online Piracy Act bill.

I’m not as convinced. This surely sounds like a proper move by Google, but really how much is it going to help? For one thing, can even Google process enough copyright claims in time to shut down that many websites from appearing in top hits, and even if they can couldn’t you just go to page 2, or *gasp* 3 on your search to find the site? Also, wouldn’t smaller sites with the same material just pop up instead in specific search results as the bigger ones go down, creating an endless loop of fresh pirated material? Speaking of search hits, will this still filter out specific searches? In the interest of not outing anyone, if I search say, Swashbuckler’s Cove for a torrent of “Game of Thrones,” wouldn’t Google still take me directly there regardless of the copyright claims?

What’s even better is that no mention of the Google owned YouTube is found in any of the statements on this matter. You know, one of the world’s most popular and prolific websites where just about any copyrighted material can be found free of charge (except for porn of course, in which case you need to go to PornTube, YouPorn, or PornPorn).

So wait a minute. Is it possible that Google just pulled a fast one on the continually technologically ignorant music and film industries by doing something to please them, while effectively doing nothing to aid them?

Pretty sneaky Google.

Fighting anti-piracy by moving DNS off “the grid”

Domain name seizure.US authorities made more domain name seizures this month, prompting a bit of a panic among the file-sharing web. While torrent services are mostly associated with illegal content (for good reason), they are also used for all sorts of legitimate tasks.

As such, the growing ease with which the US government has been seizing domains concerns torrent users, to the point that some are ready to fight back. I’m not talking about the courts either. As TorrentFreak reports, a group of enthusiasts has started to develop a P2P-based DNS system that would make domain seizures a whole lot more difficult.

The details get a little technical from there, so I’ll refer you to TorrentFreak to sort through it at your leisure. What’s clear, though, is that technology and those who are passionate about it will continue to stay strides ahead of the people that aim to control the web.

Convicted filesharing grad student has penalty reduced by 90 percent

Anti-RIAAYou may remember the story of a grad student last summer who, after a bout with the RIAA, was served a $670,000 fine for illegally downloading 30 songs. A judge ruled this past week to reduce that penalty by 90 percent, all the way down to $67,000. Unfortunately, the student says, that fine is just as unpayable as the first.

The judge did say the new fine was still “severe, even harsh,” to which the RIAA gave its usual “profound economic and artistic harm” defense. Regardless of where you stand on the moral points of the story, I think it’s fair to say that making a spectacle of one individual to scare off the masses isn’t the best use of our judicial system. Piracy is still a huge deal, but when I see the lifestyle most musicians lead, I’m less inclined to give a shit when they get ripped off a couple times. We’ve heard time and time again that tours are where artists can really make some money.

For the RIAA, here’s a thought: find a new way to monetize your options. There are, I dunno, a billion ways you can make cash that won’t piss off the people who love the music you supposedly protect. Find a way to work the free market. Create a convenient and comprehensive streaming service. Do something, anything but cry foul when the internet finds a way to distribute media for free. It will happen for the rest of your lives. Get around it.

Your piracy may be safe for now

Jolly Roger.There have been a lot of doom and gloom articles about digital media piracy over the last several months. Most of the concern stems from suits that have been filed by the US Copyright Group against large groups of John Does. The suits would require ISPs to provide the personal information attached to the IP addresses listed as downloading digital media in breach of copyright.

A DC judge may have quashed things, for now anyway. Judge Rosemary Collyer made some blunt demands of the guys bringing these suits this week – prove that its worth the court’s time to handle the suits in batches as they have been filed. The actual wording looks like this: “MINUTE ORDER requiring Plaintiff to show cause in writing no later than June 21, 2010 why Doe Defendants 2 through 2000 should not be dismissed for misjoinder under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 20.”

Rule 20 says that plaintiffs may only join defendants in a lawsuit if:

  • They assert any right to relief jointly, severally, or in the alternative with respect to or arising out of the same transaction, occurrence, or series of transactions or occurrences; and
  • Any question of law or fact common to all plaintiffs will arise in the action.

If the plaintiff can’t show either of these conditions to be true, the suits will be “severed,” meaning they each have to be filed individually, which would be costly and time consuming, probably so much as to keep the suits from being filed.

In other words, you’re safe for now, pirates.

Digital content providers team up to fight piracy

Picture 4Amazon, Apple, Myspace, Spotify, and a couple other digital content providers have grouped up to form Music Matters, an organization aimed at turning pirates into paying customers. I hate to criticize this movement because I definitely think it’s important to support the artists you love, but it’s just so hard to take the companies that hawk those digital wares too seriously. If Jack White were imploring me to please buy his albums I would be much more inclined to do it (except that Deadweather album, ugh).

The best part of the organization is a stamp that participating sites can post to remind customers that the site will pay the artists for the music you purchase. Oh wait, they’re required by law to pay artists whose music the sites have sold.

The site tries to grab your indie nerve with that pencil script seen on the cover of every Michael Cera movie. You can watch custom videos from a few bands as well. Other than that, I’m not entirely sure why the site exists.

Music Matters