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  1. Popcorn is without a doubt the hallmark snack of the movie industry. Increasingly, however, top movie industry executives cringe when they hear the word as it's linked to the "Popcorn Time" app. Making matter worse, the popular pirate tool now tops the snack in Google's search results. Dubbed the “Netflix for Pirates,†the Popcorn Time app quickly gathered a user base of millions of people over the past year. The application has some of the major media giants worried, including Netflix which sees the pirate app as a serious competitor to its business. Increasing this threat, Popcorn Time has now taken the top spot in Google search results, a position that used to be held by the popular movie snack “popcorn“. For years, the Popcorn Wikipedia entry has been listed as the number one result but it has now been replaced by the website. Results may vary based on location, but TF has confirmed that the pirate app has seized the top spot in the US, UK and the Netherlands. The screenshot below shows Google’s results from California. Popcorn Time’s domination is not shared on Bing, where the app is nowhere near the top results. In addition to the top listing, Google’s Autocomplete feature also favors Popcorn Time over the snack. Just entering the three letters “pop†is enough for the suggestion to appear. It’s unclear why Google favors Popcorn Time over Popcorn, as the latter is still more sought after in the search engine. Perhaps the recent rise of the application and the many online discussions have something to do with it. Whatever the case, Hollywood is not going to be pleased with how Google algorithms have pushed Popcorn Time into the limelight. The MPAA has been complaining bitterly about pirate sites outranking legitimate content, and they’ll see this recent example as yet more ammunition to keep pushing. So get the popcorn ready!
  2. The MPAA is refusing to hand over documentation discussing the legal case it helped Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood build against Google. According to the Hollywood group, Google is waging a PR war against Hollywood while facilitating and profiting from piracy. Late last year leaked documents from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi State Attorney General Hood to revive SOPA-esque censorship efforts in the United States. In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret effort. As part of these proceedings Google also demanded internal communication from the MPAA, but the Hollywood group has been hesitant to share these details. After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered Google took the MPAA to court earlier this month. The search giant asked a Columbia federal court to ensure that the MPAA and its law firm Jenner & Block hands over the requested documents. The MPAA and its law firm responded to the complaint this week, stressing that Google’s demands are overbroad. They reject the argument that internal discussions or communications with its members and law firm will reveal Attorney General Hood’s intent, not least due to the Attorney General not being part of these conversations himself. According to the Hollywood group, Google’s broad demands are part of a public relations war against the MPAA, one in which Google inaccurately positions itself as the victim. “Google portrays itself as the innocent victim of malicious efforts to abridge its First Amendment rights. In reality, Google is far from innocent,†the MPAA informs the federal court (pdf). The MPAA notes that Google is knowingly facilitating and profiting from distributing “illegal†content, including pirated material. “Google facilitates, and profits from, the distribution of third-party content that even Google concedes is ‘objectionable.’ ‘Objectionable’ is Google’s euphemism for ‘illegal’,†the MPAA writes. The opposition brief states that for a variety of reasons the subpoenaed documents are irrelevant to the original lawsuit and are far too broad in scope. The MPAA’s initial searches revealed that 100,000 documents would likely require review, many of which it believes are protected by attorney-client privilege. The MPAA says that Google is trying to leverage the information revealed in the Sony hack to expose the MPAA’s broader anti-piracy strategies in public, and that this is all part of an ongoing PR war. “The purpose of these Subpoenas is to gather information — beyond the information that was already stolen via the Sony hack on which it relies — on the MPAA’s strategies to protect its members’ copyrighted material and address violations of law on the Internet affecting its members’ copyrights and the rights of others,†they write. “Moreover, Google openly admits that it opposes any order to keep these discovery materials in confidence, revealing its goal to disseminate these documents publicly as part of its ongoing public relations war.†Positioning itself as the victim, the MPAA goes on to slam Google for going after anyone who “dares†to expose the search engine’s alleged facilitation of piracy and other unlawful acts. “…the most fundamental purpose of these Subpoenas is to send a message to anyone who dares to seek government redress for Google’s facilitation of unlawful conduct: If you and your attorneys exercise their First Amendment right to seek redress from a government official, Google will come after you.†In conclusion, the MPAA and its law firm ask the court to reject Google’s broad demands and stop the “abuse†of the litigation process. It’s now up to the judge to decide how to proceed, but based on the language used, the stakes at hand and the parties involved, this dispute isn’t going to blow over anytime soon. It’s more likely to blow up instead.
  3. Google has failed in its efforts to overturn a worldwide site-blocking order handed down by a Canadian court in 2014. The British Columbia Court of Appeal found that despite not being a party to the case, Google must block a range of websites from its worldwide search results due to its business presence in the country. The prominence of Google in endless Internet-related matters often sees the company get tangled up in the disputes of others. A case from 2014 provides a particularly interesting example. Equustek Solutions Inc. v. Jack saw two Canadian entities embroiled in legal action over stolen intellectual property used to manufacture competing products. Google has no direct links to the case whatsoever, yet it became sucked in when Equustek Solutions claimed that Google’s search results were helping to send visitors to websites operated by the defendants (former Equustek employees) that were selling unlawful products. Google previously removed links to the sites from its results on a voluntary basis, but Equustek wanted a broader response. In a subsequent court ruling handed in British Columbia, Google was ordered to remove the infringing websites’ listings from its central database in the United States, meaning that the ruling had worldwide implications. Google was given a little under two weeks to comply with the decision but quickly appealed in the hope of achieving a better outcome. Now, a year later, the British Columbia Court of Appeal has handed down its decision and it’s more bad news for Google. According to an analysis by Canadian law professor Michael Geist, the decision addresses two key questions, both involving jurisdiction. i) Whether the court has jurisdiction over Google ii) Whether the injunction handed down in Canada has power outside its borders On the first issue, Google argued that it does not operate servers in British Columbia, nor does it have any local offices. However, the Court decided that the company does carry out business in the region. “Google does not have resident employees, business offices, or servers in the Province, but its activities in gathering data through web crawling software, in distributing targeted advertising to users in British Columbia, and in selling advertising to British Columbia businesses are sufficient to uphold the chambers judge’s finding that it does business in the Province,†the ruling (pdf) reads. On the second issue – whether a court order handed down in British Columbia could have jurisdiction beyond its borders – the Court of Appeal again ruled against Google. “British Columbia courts are called upon to adjudicate disputes involving foreign residents on a daily basis, and the fact that their decisions may affect the activities of those people outside the borders of British Columbia is not determinative of whether an order may be granted,†the ruling reads. Noting Google’s concerns that it could potentially be “subjected to restrictive orders from courts in all parts of the world, each concerned with its own domestic law,†the court underlined the importance of exercising caution when handing down orders that have the potential to limit expression in another country. However, it found no problem with the ruling of the lower Court. “In the case before us, there is no realistic assertion that the judge’s order will offend the sensibilities of any other nation. It has not been suggested that the order prohibiting the defendants from advertising wares that violate the intellectual property rights of the plaintiffs offends the core values of any nation,†the ruling reads. However, should any nation have an issue with the decision, they are free to appeal, the ruling adds. “In the unlikely event that any jurisdiction finds the order offensive to its core values, an application could be made to the court to modify the order so as to avoid the problem.†Dismissing Google’s appeal, Justice Groberman signs off on the blocking injunction in Equustek Solutions’ favor. “The plaintiffs have established, in my view, that an order limited to the search site would not be effective. I am satisfied that there was a basis, here, for giving the injunction worldwide effect,†the Judge concludes. Google is reportedly considering its options, with an escalation to the Supreme Court a potential (but as yet unconfirmed) outcome.
  4. Despite being run by 'scammers' the EZTV website is still drawing millions of visitors per week. However, the site is getting little love from Google. The search engine has completely wiped the domain from its top search results, pointing out the hostile takeover instead. After months of trouble with a hostile takeover as the climax, popular TV-torrent distribution group EZTV called it quits last month. In the ten years since its founding the group had built up a reputation of quality and consistency, but today it is no longer active. Instead, EZTV’s domain is now run by an outsider who pretends that nothing has changed. On the site’s homepage people still see the latest TV-torrents. Initially these torrents were imported from other groups, but recently a person pretending to be EZTV’s Novaking announced that they had started releasing their own torrents again. “We have a great news for you. [eztv] has started releasing torrents again. No more nested/unneeded files/folders you have complained about. The same quality like before.†While unsuspecting users might fall for the impersonation, people in the know have cut their ties with the site. The Pirate Bay and KickassTorrents, for example, are warning their users to look our for fake files and have disabled or suspended the official EZTV account. But it’s not only the torrent experts who have seen through the facade, Google has too. For many years the domain (later was the top listed result when searching for the term EZTV using Google. This is no surprise, considering that there are hundreds of thousands of backlinks to the site. Interestingly, however, the “official†domain has now been completely stripped from the top results. Even several pages down the domain doesn’t appear. It’s worth noting that the main domain was removed following a takedown notice from Lionsgate. However, usually other pages on the same domain quickly take its place, as happened to ExtraTorrent and others. The absence of the EZTV domain is remarkable and stands out when comparing it to other search engines. For example, roughly a week ago both Bing and DuckDuckGo continued to place on top. Today, both search engines still show the domain among the top results, although no longer in first place. With the site no longer being the top result in Google and elsewhere, search traffic to EZTV is minimal. Whether the site’s total traffic will also go down in the long run has yet to be seen. For now the site is still among the most popular torrent sites on the Internet, and many users either don’t know or don’t care who runs the show.
  5. Hoping to find out more about the secret Internet censorship plans Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood was pushing, Google is now taking the MPAA to court. After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered, the search giant is now asking a New York federal court to ensure that the MPAA other parties hand over the requested information. Helped by the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. In response to the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This resulted in a victory for Google with District Court Judge Henry Wingate putting the subpoena on hold. At the same time Google requested additional details from the Attorney General and various other parties involved in the scheme, including the MPAA. Thus far, however, these requests haven’t proven fruitful. In a motion to compel directed at the MPAA (pdf), Google explains that the movie industry group and other petitioned parties have yet to hand over the requested information. “To date, the subpoenaed parties have produced nothing,†Google’s lawyers inform the court. “They have inexplicably delayed producing the few documents they agreed to turn over, and have objected that many of their documents, including internal notes or summaries of meetings with AG Hood, are irrelevant or protected by some unsubstantiated privilege.†In addition to the MPAA, Google has also filed similar motions against the MPAA’s law firm Jenner & Block, Digital Citizens Alliance, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Viacom. All parties thus far have refused to hand over the requested information, which includes communication with and prepared for the Attorney General, as well as emails referencing Google. According to the MPAA this information is “irrelevant†or privileged, but Google disagrees. “The relevance objections are meritless. As Judge Wingate has already held, there is substantial evidence that the Attorney General’s actions against Google were undertaken in bad faith and for a retaliatory purpose,†the motion reads. According to Google’s legal team the documents will shine a light on how the MPAA and others encouraged and helped the Attorney General to push for Internet censorship. “Google expects the documents will show that the Attorney General, the Subpoenaed Parties, and their lobbyists understood that his actions invaded the exclusive province of federal law,†the motion reads. “More fundamentally, the documents are likely to show that the Attorney General’s investigation was intended not to uncover supposed violations of Mississippi law, but instead to coerce Google into silencing speech that Viacom, Fox, and NBC do not like…†District Court Judge James Boasberg has referred the case to a magistrate judge (pdf), who will discuss the matter in an upcoming hearing. Considering the stakes at hand, the players involved will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions.
  6. A few days ago it was revealed that Google is forwarding controversial settlement demands from copyright holders to its subscribers. Responding to the news, Google says the notices are forwarded in an effort to be as transparent as possible. However, the company adds that targeting individual downloaders isn't the best way to solve piracy. In recent years it has become more common for copyright holders to include settlement offers in the takedown notices that are sent to Internet providers. While most large ISPs prefer not to forward these demands, Google Fiber decided it would. A few days ago we highlighted the issue in an article. Before publication we reached out to Google for a comment, but initially the company didn’t reply. Now, a week after our first inquiry Google has sent a response. Google explains that it’s forwarding the entire takedown notice including the settlement offers in an effort to be as transparent as it can be. “When Google Fiber receives a copyright complaint about an account, we pass along all of the information we receive to the account holder so that they’re aware of it and can determine the response that’s best for their situation,†a Google spokesperson tells TF. This suggests that the transparency is seen by Google as more important than protecting customers against threatening and sometimes inaccurate notices. Overall, however, Google notes that targeting pirates directly is not the best solution to deal with the issue. “Although we think there are better solutions to fighting piracy than targeting individual downloaders, we want to be transparent with our customers,†Google’s spokesperson adds. Google doesn’t say what these better options are, but previously the company noted that piracy is mainly a pricing and availability problem. While transparency is often a good thing, in this case it doesn’t necessarily help Google Fiber customers. After receiving the notice they can either pay up or ignore it. If they choose the latter generally nothing happens, but recent history shows that there’s a legal risk involved. Last week the news broke that Rotten Records, one of the companies which sends settlement requests to ISPs, sued Comcast subscribers for ignoring these infringement notices. With the possibility of false accusations, it would probably be in the customers’ best interest if ISPs ignored the notices entirely, which some do.
  7. Google Fiber is forwarding copyright infringement notices to its subscribers including controversial and automated piracy fines. Through these notices, rightsholders demand settlements of up to hundreds of dollars. Google's decision to forward these emails is surprising, as the company generally has a good track record of protecting consumer interests. Every month Google receives dozens of millions of DMCA takedown requests from copyright holders, most of which are directed at its search engine. However, with Google Fiber being rolled out in more cities, notices targeting allegedly pirating Internet subscribers are becoming more common as well. These include regular takedown notices but also the more controversial settlement demands sent by companies such as Rightscorp and CEG TEK. Instead of merely alerting subscribers that their connections have been used to share copyright infringing material, these notices serve as automated fines, offering subscribers settlements ranging from $20 to $300. The scheme uses the standard DMCA takedown process which means that the copyright holder doesn’t have to go to court or even know who the recipient is. In fact, the affected subscriber is often not the person who shared the pirated file. To protect customers against these practices many ISPs including Comcast, Verizon and AT&T have chosen not to forward settlement demands. However, information received by TF shows that Google does take part. Over the past week we have seen settlement demands from Rightscorp and CEG TEK which were sent to Google Fiber customers. In an email, Google forwards the notice with an additional warning that repeated violations may result in a permanent disconnection. “Repeated violations of our Terms of Service may result in remedial action being taken against your Google Fiber account, up to and including possible termination of your service,†Google Fiber writes. Below Google’s message is the notification with the settlement demand, which in this example was sent on behalf of music licensing outfit BMG. In the notice, the subscriber is warned over possible legal action if the dispute is not settled. “BMG will pursue every available remedy including injunctions and recovery of attorney’s fees, costs and any and all other damages which are incurred by BMG as a result of any action that is commenced against you,†the notice reads. Facing such threatening language many subscribers are inclined to pay up, which led some to accuse the senders of harassment and abuse. In addition, several legal experts have spoken out against this use of the DMCA takedown process. Mitch Stoltz, staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) previously told us that Internet providers should carefully review what they’re forwarding to their users. Under U.S. law they are not required to forward DMCA notices and forwarding these automated fines may not be in the best interest of consumers. “In the U.S., ISPs don’t have any legal obligation to forward infringement notices in their entirety. An ISP that cares about protecting its customers from abuse should strip out demands for money before forwarding infringement notices. Many do this,†Stoltz said. According to Stoltz these settlement demands are often misleading or inaccurate, suggesting that account holders are responsible for all use of their Internet connections. “The problem with notices demanding money from ISP subscribers is that they’re often misleading. They often give the impression that the person whose name is on the ISP bill is legally responsible for all infringement that might happen on the Internet connection, which is simply not true,†he notes. While Google is certainly not the only ISP that forwards these notices it is the biggest name involved. TF asked Google why they have decided to forward the notices in their entirely but unfortunately the company did not respond to our request for comment.
  8. An angry YouTuber says he has had enough of the way YouTube handles the DMCA and allegations of copyright infringement. In a lawsuit filed against Google, Viacom and Lionsgate, Benjamin Ligeri complains of restrictive practices which favor copyright holders using YouTube's Content ID system, even when claims are invalid. While in previous years people were simply grateful to have somewhere to host their own vides, these days a growing number of YouTube users rely on the site to generate extra cash. Earning money with YouTube is now easier than ever, with some ‘YouTubers’ even making enough to invest in a mansion. For others, however, the environment created by the Google-owned video platform is far from perfect, with complaints over the company’s Content ID anti-piracy system regularly making the news. Now YouTuber Benjamin Ligeri is adding his name to the disgruntled list. In a lawsuit filed at the US District Court for the District of Rhode Island which lists Google, Viacom, Lionsgate and another YouTuber as defendants, Ligeri bemoans a restrictive YouTube user contract and a system that unfairly handles copyright complaints. Ligeri says that he has uploaded content to YouTube under the name BetterStream for purposes including “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and/or research,†but never in breach of copyright. Nevertheless, he claims to have fallen foul of YouTube’s automated anti-piracy systems. One complaint details a video uploaded by Ligeri which he says was a parody of the film The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. It was present on YouTube for a year before a complaint was filed against it by a YouTube user called Egeda Pirateria. “Defendant Pirateria is not the rightful owner of the rights to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, nor did the Plaintiff’s critique of it amount to copying or distribution of the movie,†Ligeri writes. However, much to his disappointment, YouTube issued a copyright “strike†against Ligeri’s account and refused to remove the warning, even on appeal. “YouTube, although Defendants Pirateria or Lion’s Gate lacked any legal claim to any copyright to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, denied the Plaintiff’s appeal pertaining to his account’s copyright strike,†the complaint reads. Ligeri says Viacom also got in on the action, filing a complaint against his “critique†of the 2014 remake of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. “A claim was made with YouTube on behalf of Defendant Viacom. Defendant Viacom does not have a legal or valid copyright to TMNT. Defendant YouTube allowed Viacom the option to mute, disable or monetize the Plaintiff’s Fair Use content,†Ligeri adds. Although the fair use argument could be up for debate, in 2009 Nickelodeon acquired the global rights to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles brand. Nickelodeon’s parent company is Viacom-owned Paramount Pictures. “Content ID is an opaque and proprietary system where the accuser can serve as the judge, jury and executioner,†Ligeri continues. “Content ID allows individuals, including Defendants other than Google, to steal ad revenue from YouTube video creators en masse, with some companies claiming content they don’t own deliberately or not. The inability to understand context and parody regularly leads to fair use videos getting blocked, muted or monetized.†Noting that YouTube exercises absolute power through its take-it-or-leave-it user agreement, Ligeri says the agreement and Content ID combined result in non-compliance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “Normally, under DMCA, there would be a process where the reported content would be removed for 10-14 days so any dispute could be resolved by way of notice and counter-notice,†Ligeri writes. “Content ID and YouTube’s adhesion contract are not compliant with DMCA because, at a minimum, the software’s algorithm fails [to] recognize when content may or may not be violating copyright.†Ligeri says that rather than acting as a neutral party, YouTube favors larger copyright holders using Content ID over smaller creators who do not. “This software and YouTube’s terms of use circumvent DMCA by creating a private arbitration mechanism. Further, a party claiming copyright infringement has no burden of proof under this private arbitration mechanism,†he notes. In conclusion, Ligeri is demanding an injunction which compels Google/YouTube to restore the content taken down via the allegedly bogus complaints and “otherwise comply with the DMCA.†Ligeri also seeks declaratory judgments that he did not infringe the copyrights of the defendants and that YouTube’s terms of use are void on several counts, including that they ignore or fail to comply with the DMCA. A claim for nominal damages of $10,000, ‘special’ damages of $1,000,000 plus unspecified punitive damages and costs conclude the filing. This is not the first time Ligeri has personally targeted YouTube. In 2008 he unsuccessfully sued the company in an effort to obtain a 1/500th share in the revenue generated by the video site. The self-styled “#1 Most Viewed YouTube Icon†also appears to enjoy representing himself. In addition to the current case his Linkedin profile describes him as a “human rights activist private litigator†with previous experience working in a public defender’s office for the criminally insane.
  9. A broad coalition including Google, Mastercard, Microsoft, ISPs and anti-piracy organization Rights Alliance have signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the issue of online infringement. The agreement, which is the result of efforts by Denmark's Ministry of Culture, will see the companies working together to defeat piracy, promote legitimate content, and make the Internet a safer place. While action against online infringement takes place on many levels, parallel large-scale initiatives with broader aims are increasingly being employed by entertainment industry companies. Outside of “three strikes†style programs, “follow the money†is perhaps the next best well-known. This type of initiative, carried out with the assistance of big brands, advertising companies and payment processors, aims to strangle the finances of ‘pirate’ sites. As seen last week, there are also tandem efforts to portray unauthorized sites as “unsafe†places for netizens to frequent. The overall message is that pirate sites are run by criminals, consumers should not support them, and money is best spent with legitimate content providers. Denmark has become the latest country to embrace these ideals via a Memorandum of Understanding titled ‘Code to Promote Lawful Behavior on the Internet’ signed by some of the world’s biggest online players. Google and Microsoft are the most recognizable international technology signatories and all the big Hollywood studios make a proxy appearance via anti-piracy group Rights Alliance. Broadcasters and cinema companies are also represented. The interests of more than 40,000 composers, songwriters and music publishers are served by rights group Koda and payment companies including MasterCard and Diners Club are also on board. Local ISPs have signed through the Tele Industrien group. According to the Ministry of Culture the MoU represents the beginning of a collaborative mechanism designed to tackle digital challenges on five key issues. 1. To help make the Internet a safe and legal platform for consumers and businesses. 2. To stress that copyright is an important cornerstone for growth and innovation. 3. To work together to reduce financial crime, based on copyright violations. 4. To work together to promote the dissemination of legal products. 5. To contribute to efficient processes that can help to reduce copyright violations and associated crimes. In keeping with voluntary anti-piracy initiatives currently underway in other countries, signatories will also participate in discussion aimed at identifying new areas of cooperation. The shape of this Danish initiative looks familiar, with rightsholders applying the pressure and search engines, ISPs, payment processors and advertisers falling into step. While the emphasis is on consumer safety, it is clear that companies are being advised to do everything they can to disassociate themselves from “criminal enterprises†on the Internet. As part of the MoU, signatories agree not to “finance criminal activities†by offering support of any kind including giving them “exposureâ€, providing advertising revenue or payment processing services. “The companies and organizations that are part of this Code want to counter that their companies are associated with economic crime, based on copyright violations,†the code reads. In a statement announcing the signing of the MoU, the Ministry of Culture stressed the aims and importance of the broad agreement. “The code reflects a common desire to make a determined effort to ensure that the Internet is a safe and economically sustainable marketplace. It will help to create better conditions for growth and innovation for legitimate businesses and security and transparency for the users,†the Ministry said. Time will tell how far each signatory will be prepared to go and on what basis, but the companies involved are the biggest players around and having them all at the same table will be a powerful tool.
  10. BBC Worldwide has sent tens of thousands of takedown requests to Google this week, but not all reported links are as bad as they claim. In fact, the company is targeting the IMDb pages of several of its own shows, including Top Gear and The Game, as well as one of Dailymotion's homepages. In an effort to make piracy less visible, copyright holders send dozens of millions of takedown notices to Google every month. Unfortunately not all of these requests are as accurate as they should be. Due to the high number of often automated notices and the fact that copyright holders don’t check the validity of all requests, there are many questionable takedowns. This week BBC Worldwide reported a record number of infringing links to Google, targeting more than 25,000 webpages. We decided to go through the links and it wasn’t hard to find several URLs that are clearly not infringing. For example, one of the notices targets the IMDb pages of Top Gear, The Game and Top Fails. The Internet Movie Database is one of the prime sources for movie and TV fans to get information and doesn’t host or link to infringing content, so taking these pages offline only hurts the BBC. Perhaps even more worrying is that the same notice also lists the British home of the video site Dailymotion as “infringing.†While this page may have linked to unauthorized material in the past, it’s certainly doesn’t warrant the removal of the entire homepage. Unfortunately this notice is not an isolated incident. In recent years we’ve highlighted countless examples of takedown requests that censor legitimate content, often hurting traffic for the affected sites. The good news is that Google appears to have white-listed several domains, including the IMDb and Dailymotion. This means that while the links reported by the BBC were not removed, less prominent sites may not be so lucky. As mentioned previously the DMCA notice surge is a growing problem, with Google now removing more than a million links each day on average. Since Google and other websites can’t possibly verify every DMCA claim, the problem is only expected to increase.
  11. The RIAA and BPI have reached a new milestone in their ongoing efforts to have pirated content removed from the Internet. This week the music industry groups reported the 200 millionth URL to Google. Looking ahead, the BPI is urging Google to introduce more piracy prevention measures, or else Governments will have to intervene. Despite the growing availability of legal music services in many countries, record labels keep battling ever popular pirate sites. In an attempt to prevent these sites from expanding their audiences, music industry groups BPI and RIAA send millions of takedown notices to Internet services every month. Most of these requests are directed at Google. This week the two most prolific industry groups reached a new milestone after they notified Google of the 200 millionth allegedly infringing URL. This is up from 100 million little over a year ago. According to the most recent statistics the BPI has reported over 138 million links in 295,730 notices with the RIAA adding more than 63 million in 19,569 requests. While the record industry groups have little to complain about when it comes to Google’s response rate, they believe that removing links alone is not enough. “The fact that BPI and RIAA have together removed 200 million illegal results from Google demonstrates just how much more needs to be done to clean up search,†a BPI spokesperson tells TF. As highlighted in the past, the BPI and RIAA would like Google to go above and beyond processing takedown requests. According to them, the millions of reported links show that removing infringing links alone isn’t working. “If the digital single market is to unlock growth, consumers need be directed to legal sources for entertainment ahead of the online black market. BPI alone has had to remove 7.5 million links from Google in the last month, protecting UK artists and musicians from sites that steal their work,†the BPI notes. In recent years Google has slowly implemented several changes to appease the record labels. October last year the company implemented the most significant change to its search algorithm to date, aimed at downranking sites that often link to copyright-infringing material. This significantly reduced the visibility of pirate links in search results and had a major impact on the traffic levels of some sites. However, the BPI believes that more must be done to properly address the piracy issue. “The changes to Google’s algorithm last year represented a positive step,†the BPI says. “But if further progress is not made swiftly to ensure that searches for entertainment content yield overwhelmingly legal results – for instance by boosting the ranking of known licensed sites for appropriate types of search – then the new UK Government and the EU Commission should intervene to make that happen.†Both the UK Government and the European Commission are currently reviewing whether online intermediaries such as search engines should have a legal obligation to protect copyright holders. Google, however, believes that it has done enough and repeatedly argues that the entertainment industries can themselves do more. “Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply,†the company noted earlier. “The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.†Based of the current standoff and the increasing rate at which pirate links are being reported to Google, the music industry groups will double the 200 million milestone by the end of next year.
  12. Google is entitled to see internal communication between the MPAA and Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, a federal court has ruled. Hood previously called for SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. and is accused of doing Hollywood's dirty work. In backroom meetings the MPAA and Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood discussed a plan to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial SOPA law failed to pass. The plan, dubbed “Project Goliath,†became public through various emails that were released during the Sony Pictures leaks. In a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned†about the developments. To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This resulted in a victory for Google with District Court Judge Henry Wingate putting the subpoena on hold. At the same time Google requested additional details from the Attorney General on his discussions with Hollywood. During an oral hearing earlier this month Google requested various documents including an email conversation between MPAA’s Senior Vice President State Legislative Affairs Vans Stevenson and the Attorney General. In addition, Google asked for copies of Word files titled Google can take action, Google must change its behavior, Google’s illegal conduct, CDA, and any documents gathered in response to a request previously submitted by Techdirt’s Mike Masnick . After a careful review District Court Judge Henry Wingate sided with Google, ordering Attorney General Hood to hand over the requested information before the end of the month. Judge Wingate’s order The documents will help Google to get to the bottom of the censorship efforts and to determine what role the MPAA played and what its contributions were. Various emails that leaked after the Sony hack already revealed that the MPAA’s long-standing law firm Jenner & Block had drafted a subpoena and other communication the Attorney General could use against Google. Many of the “Project Goliath†emails and documents are readily available after Wikileaks released them late last week, but nearly all details had already been made public after the leaks first surfaced. Interestingly, in one email the MPAA’s Vans Stevenson linked to a New York Times piece on how lobbyists court State Attorneys to advance their political agendas. “FYI, first is a series of articles,†Stevenson wrote to several high level executives involved, not knowing that a follow-up would include “Project Goliath.†Perhaps fittingly, New York Times’ journalist Eric Lipton won a Pulitzer prize for the series yesterday, for reporting “how the influence of lobbyists can sway congressional leaders and state attorneys general, slanting justice toward the wealthy and connected.†
  13. With nearly three million active users FrostWire is one of the most popular Android apps but a few hours ago the BitTorrent client and media downloader disappeared from the Play store. Google cites a YouTube related violation of the Developer Distribution Agreement. FrostWire has become a well-known file-sharing brand over the past decade. The application was first released in 2004 as a LimeWire fork, but underwent several changes over the years. Today it’s mostly a BitTorrent client, but it also offers the option to access content from YouTube. FrostWire is available on all major operating systems and does particularly well on Android where it has 2.9m active installs. Yesterday, however, the popular app was rendered unavailable. FrostWire developer Angel Leon informs TF that Google pulled the application citing a violation of the Developer Distribution Agreement. Unlike the recent ban by Amazon, the removal has nothing to do with torrents but was triggered by FrostWire’s YouTube integration. “After a regular review, we have determined that your app downloads, monetizes, or otherwise accesses YouTube videos in violation of the YouTube Terms of Service or YouTube API Terms of Service,†Google informed FrostWire while cautioning over the possibility of a permanent disconnection. “All removals are tracked. Repeated removals will result in app suspension, at which point this app will count as a strike against the good standing of your developer account and no longer be available on Google Play. After the first warning last Friday FrostWire submitted a YouTube-less app to get it re-listed. This worked, as the app was put back in the store by Saturday, but yesterday it was removed again citing the “YouTube†violation. “We’re pretty pissed by how Google is acting all bully on app developers,†Leon tells us in response to the recent troubles. The app’s users are not happy either. Many were happy to have the YouTube integration and berated FrostWire for removing it. To please these users the developers made a separate version with YouTube functionality that can be installed directly from the FrostWire site. “Our solution to pissed off users after Google forced us to remove YouTube integration from FrostWire, was to simply build another version of the app which didn’t disable the feature, and tell users to get the installer directly from our website,†Leon says. The YouTube situation was explained in the FrostWire client and more than a million people saw the notification over the weekend. Interestingly, Google doesn’t allow developers to promote apps outside the market so this notification had to go too. Facing these and other restrictions, the FrostWire team is growing increasingly frustrated but without solid competition there’s not much they can do. “Google is acting too much like a bully lately, they need to be put on the spot, and they deserve some serious competition in the mobile space,†Leon says. At the time of writing FrostWire is still unavailable in the Play store. If everything goes well, however, the app should be reinstated in the near future.
  14. If using your Android device on an open Wi-Fi network fills you with dread, fear not. Google is working on a VPN service that will ease those worries. How many times have you been on public Wi-Fi and needed to transmit some form of private, sensitive data? The answer is usually to wait until you get back to the office or home, when you're connected to a wireless connection you can trust. Soon, that will no longer be necessary, as Google plans on rolling out their own VPN service. The Google VPN can be found in Android 5.15 -- however, it isn't ready yet for prime time. But when a viable version does finally roll out, you can be sure this will be a feature many business professionals will want to take advantage of. My major question, regarding a Google VPN, is whether or not it speaks to Google's bigger plans. Yes, I'm talking about Google Wi-Fi. Imagine having Google wireless available as well as being able to connect to a Google VPN to ensure the security of your data. This could be a game changer for many users. There is one major caveat to this -- if you don't have Lollipop, you need not apply. That's more of an issue than one might think. Consider that less than 2% of Android devices are using Lollipop, and only a fraction of those device have Android 5.1 (the iteration that includes the slightest hint of the VPN service), very few will actually be able to experience the VPN service -- even when it's ready for prime time. That's right, if you don't have at least Android 5.1, there will be no Google VPN available. Some people might simply say "Use your provider network to ensure your data security." But not all providers are created equal. Data breaches happen. AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile all have suffered data breaches. Take a look at this interactive chart that offers information on the largest data breaches across the world. On that chart, locate Google. It's not as easy as you might think. Considering the amount of data that passes through the Google systems and services on a daily basis, you'd think the search giant would rank near the top. The truth of the matter is that Google properties are one of the most secure on the internet. With that in mind, who would you rather trust securing your data? The small coffee shop you use as your office? Your carrier? Not me. I'll trust Google every time. Of course, there will always be naysayers who refuse to trust Google with their data -- or even their internet searches. That, in my opinion, isn't an issue that takes data security into account. Those who don't trust Google are looking at the issue with personal privacy in mind. But we all know that having a connected life these days is akin to handing over at least a modicum of your personal privacy. Amazon will know what you like to shop for Facebook will know how to target ads to you Google will know what you search for Yes, there are steps to take to prevent the above, but it's an active, on-going process -- one that most average users aren't willing to take. But the idea of data security should be considered far more important than the privacy of your online search patterns. And this Google VPN service (when it rolls out) will go a very long way to securing that data. It could be a major game changer for on-the-go power users, especially those whose companies either do not have a VPN setup or have a poorly configured VPN (which occurs more often than you'd think). There are also people who will point to a number of VPN clients/services already available on the Google Play Store. However, these would require you to hand over your data security (in some cases) to small companies that can't possibly stand up to the level of security offered by Google. Personally, I think the Google VPN service is long overdue. I've connected to open Wi-Fi and limited my usage too often because the network simply could not be trusted. Having a built-in VPN ready for action would render this fear unnecessary. Now, all I have to do is finally get the Lollipop upgrade. What do you think? Is the Google VPN a good idea, a bad idea, or something you'll never try? Let us know your thoughts in the discussion thread below.
  15. The world's leading record labels are targeting Grooveshark with an unprecedented level of copyright complaints. According to Google, during the past month the streaming service became the 7th most complained about site in the world, something that has caused Grooveshark's search engine traffic to nosedive. It would be fair to say that the relationship between the world’s major recording labels and streaming music service Grooveshark is a rocky one at best. Founded in 2006 as a site where users could upload their own music and listen to streams for free, friction with record companies built alongside Grooveshark’s growth. EMI first filed a copyright infringement suit against the company in 2009 but it was withdrawn later that year after the pair reached a licensing agreement. Since then there have been major and ongoing disputes with the labels of the RIAA who accuse Grooveshark of massive copyright infringement. Those behind the service insist that Grooveshark is simply a YouTube-like site which is entitled to enjoy the safe harbor protections of the DMCA. Part of Grooveshark’s DMCA responsibilities is to remove infringing content once a copyright holder asks for it to be taken down. Grooveshark doesn’t publish any kind of transparency report but there is nothing to suggest that in 2015 it doesn’t take that responsibility extremely seriously. However, Google’s transparency report reveals that the world’s major recording labels are currently hitting Grooveshark particularly hard. In fact, between the RIAA, IFPI and several affiliated anti-piracy groups, Google handled 346,619 complaints during the past month alone, with up to 10,000 URLs reported in a single notice. While the labels have always complained about Grooveshark to Google, the big question is why the game is being stepped up now. Both the RIAA and Grooveshark tend to remain tight-lipped on such matters, but in recent times Google’s transparency report has become a convenient barometer for rightsholders to illustrate how ‘infringing’ any particular site is. According to the report, last month those complaints made Grooveshark the 7th most-complained about domain in the world, just one position behind 4Shared, a site the USTR declares a “notorious marketâ€. It should be noted that Grooveshark is definitely not on that list, but there are other reasons for Google to be sent as many complaints about Grooveshark as possible. Around October 2014, Google tweaked its search algorithm so that sites receiving the most takedown notices were placed lower in its search results. The move not only hittorrent sites hard, but also affected many cyber-locker type domains too. As show in the Alexa chart below, Grooveshark’s traffic has also been largely on the decline since October. While there could be other factors at play for the downturn in traffic, perhaps the most obvious sign that a recent and massive surge in DMCA notices sent to Google is having an effect on Grooveshark’s visibility can be seen below. Early February the site’s traffic from search fell off a cliff and is currently just half of what it was seven weeks ago. While results are currently being removed from Google in their hundreds of thousands, Grooveshark is far from on its knees. The site services millions of happy users who are currently enjoying a fully redesigned platform which looks and performs better than its predecessor. One thing is for certain; if the current pressure continues Grooveshark’s own search engine will work much better than Google’s when it comes to finding music on the service. Torrentfreak
  16. It's no secret that Google and Hollywood have different views on the responsibilities of search engines. This is resulting in an interesting standoff where Google keeps rejecting requests to remove pirate sites from its search results. The MPAA apparently even tried to take down its own website as a test, but failed to do so. The MPAA and Google are not on speaking terms, to say the least. In recent years the Hollywood group has pushed Google and other search engines to increase their anti-piracy efforts. This prompted the search giant to filter certain keywords and update its algorithms to downrank pirate sites, but the MPAA is still not happy. Ideally, they want Google to de-list pirate sites entirely. In a related effort, the group has been sending very targeted takedown requests. Instead of linking to individual download or streaming pages, they ask for the removal of the homepages of various pirate sites. While these homepages often list links to infringing movies, as shown here, they also include a lot of other content that’s not specified in the takedowns. As a result, Google refuses to take action. The MPAA’s most recent request lists 43 allegedly infringing URLs and Google refused to take 36 out of its search results, a total of 86 percent. MPAA’s failed requests We previously asked Google under what circumstances a homepage might be removed from search results. A spokesperson couldn’t go into detail but noted that “it’s more complex than simply counting how many clicks one page is from another.†“We’ve designed a variety of policies to comply with the requirements of the law, while weeding out false positives and material that’s too remote from infringing activity,†Google spokesperson told us. Perhaps frustrated with Google’s inaction, the MPAA also sent Google a takedown notice for its own homepage at At least, if that’s not a prank by someone else. Again, the search engine refused to take action. Google’s stance was to be expected. After all, the search engine has refused to comply with similar requests in the past. But it’s the MPAA’s continued attempts to censor entire homepages that’s most interesting here. As the main force behind State Attorney General Jim Hood’s investigation into Google’s anti-piracy obligation, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if these refusals are pointed out to a judge in the months to come.
  17. Google has claimed its first victory against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood, who called for SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. After the court put Hood's subpoena on hold, Google called out the MPAA who they see as the main instigator behind the censorship efforts. With help from the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned†about the developments. To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to prevent Hood from enforcing a subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. This week Google scored its first victory in the case (pdf) as U.S. District Judge Wingate granted a preliminary injunction to put the subpoena on hold. This means that Hood can’t yet use the investigative powers that were granted in the subpoena. In addition, the injunction also prohibits Hood from filing civil or criminal charges, at least for the time being. While the Court still has to rule on the merits of the case Google is happy with the first “win.†What stands out most, however, is Google slamming the MPAA’s efforts to censor the Internet. “We’re pleased with the court’s ruling, which recognizes that the MPAA’s long-running campaign to censor the Web — which started with SOPA — is contrary to federal law,†Google’s general counsel Kent Walker notes. While the MPAA wasn’t mentioned in the court’s decision, Google wants to make it clear that they see the Hollywood group as the driving force behind Hood’s “censorship†campaign. Google’s harsh words are illustrative of the worsening relationship between the search giant and the Hollywood lobby group. After a previous clash, a top executive at Google’s policy department told the MPAA that his company would no longer “speak or do business†with the movie group. Thus far, the MPAA has remained relatively silent on the court case, at least in public. But given the stakes at hand it’s probably all hands on deck behind the scenes.
  18. Google Play has removed a few dozen "Launchpad" apps from its store as they allegedly infringe the similarly named trademark. The broad takedown request was submitted by Focusrite, a UK audio equipment manufacturer who trademarked the term. The word “launchpad†has many meanings, but in the world of mobile apps it has become an established term to describe apps that allow people to create music simply by clicking on the screen. Over the years hundreds of “launchpad†apps have populated various app stores, often using the popular keyword as part of the software’s description or title. Most recently, however, dozens of Android developers were notified that use of the word was not authorized after UK-based audio equipment manufacturer Focusrite sent Google Play a takedown notice listing several dozen launchpad apps as trademark infringers. One of the apps covered in the complaint is Alexander Nowak’s “Dubstep DubPad Buttons†app. Novak released the app a few weeks ago after he turned 18 and it generated hundreds of thousands of downloads since. According to Focusrite, however, the app infringes on their trademark for using the word “launchpad†in the description. Google encouraged the developer to resolve the issue, which Novak did by removing the challenged word, after which his downloads plunged. “I removed the keyword in my description, resulting in having way less downloads since a couple of hours,†Nowak tells TF. For other developers referenced by the takedown notice the effects are much worse. It appears that all apps using the word “launchpad†have been removed from Google Play. This includes popular apps such as “Great Launchpad,†“Super Launchpad,†“Free Launchpad,†“Launchpad Mix,†“Launchpad Mashup,†“Launchpad Play,†Techno Launch Pad and dozens more. The trademark underlying the request is brand new and was published for opposition early January. As with many trademarks its description is quite broad, including many possible uses. “Apparatus, instruments and software for recording, transmission, reproduction or amplification of sound; sound-recording and processing apparatus and software; sound equalizers; musical instrument digital interface controllers, converters and software; downloadable music files; music-composition software; digital music downloadable provided from a computer database or the internet; structural parts and fittings for all the aforesaid apparatus.†According to Novak this trademark definition is too broad, covering many aspects that have nothing to do with how his and other launchpad apps operate. “I don’t know how a Launchpad could even indirectly ever make a ‘transmission of sound’, I have never seen anyone running a ‘parametric, semi-parametric, graphic, peak and program equalizer’ on it and I really doubt that it has anything to do with ‘downloadable music files’,†the developer says. “I think Focusrite’s claim on that is ridiculous. I can understand when they want to fight piracy, industrial espionage or anything that actually harms them. But with that stupid complaint they are literally just aiming to destroy some indie dev’s businesses, which I think makes them the cockiest enterprise ever,†he adds. The developers who lost their apps will be able to resubmit them under new names. However, they will have to drop their existing branding and will probably miss out on many customers. Focusrite currently only has an app for iOS devices, but considering the recent Google Play purge, it’s likely that they will have an Android one out soon.
  19. Google's lawsuit against Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood is a crucial case for the future of SOPA-like Internet filters in the U.S. This week Digital Citizens Alliance, Stop Child Predators and others voiced their support for the Attorney General, suggesting that Google Chrome should be censored as well. Helped by the MPAA, Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood launched a secret campaign to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States. The MPAA and Hood want Internet services to bring website blocking and search engine filtering back to the table after the controversial law failed to pass. The plan became public through various emails that were released in the Sony Pictures leaks and in a response Google said that it was “deeply concerned†about the developments. To counter the looming threat Google filed a complaint against Hood last December, asking the court to quash a pending subpoena that addresses Google’s failure to take down or block access to illegal content, including pirate sites. Recognizing the importance of this case, several interested parties have written to the court to share their concerns. There’s been support for both parties with some siding with Google and others backing Hood. In a joint amicus curae brief (pdf) the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA), Computer & Communications Association (CCIA) and advocacy organization Engine warn that Hood’s efforts endanger free speech and innovation. “No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet. Where the public official is one of fifty state attorneys general, the danger to free speech and to innovation is even more profound,†they write. According to the tech groups it would be impossible for Internet services to screen and police the Internet for questionable content. “Internet businesses rely not only on the ability to communicate freely with their consumers, but also on the ability to give the public ways to communicate with each other. This communication, at the speed of the Internet, is impossible to pre-screen.†Not everyone agrees with this position though. On the other side of the argument we find outfits such as Stop Child Predators, Digital Citizens Alliance, Taylor Hooton Foundation and Ryan United. In their brief they point out that Google’s services are used to facilitate criminal practices such as illegal drug sales and piracy. Blocking content may also be needed to protect children from other threats. “Google’s YouTube service has been used by those seeking to sell steroids and other illegal drugs online,†they warn, adding that the video platform is also “routinely used to distribute other content that is harmful to minors, such as videos regarding ‘How to Buy Smokes Under-Age’, and ‘Best Fake ID Service Around’. Going a step further, the groups also suggest that Google should filter content in its Chrome browser. The brief mentions that Google recently removed Pirate Bay apps from its Play Store, but failed to block the site in search results or Chrome. “In December 2014, responding to the crackdown on leading filesharing website PirateBay, Google removed a file-sharing application from its mobile software store, but reports indicate that Google has continued to allow access to the same and similar sites through its search engine and Chrome browser,†they write. The Attorney General should be allowed to thoroughly investigate these threats and do something about it, the groups add. “It is simply not tenable to suggest that the top law enforcement officials of each state are powerless even to investigate whether search engines or other intermediaries such as Google are being used—knowingly or unknowingly—to facilitate the distribution of illegal content…†In addition to the examples above, several other organizations submitted amicus briefs arguing why the subpoena should or shouldn’t be allowed under the First Amendment and Section 230 of the CDA, including the International AntiCounterfeiting Coalition, EFF, the Center for Democracy & Technology and Public Knowledge. Considering the stakes at hand, both sides will leave no resource untapped to defend their positions. In any event, this is certainly not the last time we’ll hear of the case.
  20. The official Pirate Bay website hasn't served any torrents for more than a month. While many users of the site are desperately waiting for its return, Google has already picked a new winner. Those who search for "Pirate Bay" will be directed to one of its copycats. Bing meanwhile, rightfully tags as the official site. Ever since The Pirate Bay was raided early December millions of people have been anticipating a comeback. In the meantime, they have had had no other option than to look for alternatives. Several websites inspired by The Pirate Bay quickly appeared online, hoping to fill this gap. These include the OldPirateBay site that was launched by the operators of While the site’s operators have nothing to do with The Pirate Bay, they cleverly use the brand to gain traffic. It’s been a successful strategy with the site now pulling in millions of visitors per day. Interestingly, many of these visitors are being referred by Google where the OldPirateBay site has gained the top search spot . This is odd, to say the least, because the official Pirate Bay domain is still up and running. For some reason Google’s algorithms have decided that the “copy,†which also indexes torrents from other torrent sites, is of more interest than the official site, which appears several results down. While we have to agree that most torrent users will find OldPirateBay more useful, it doesn’t feel entirely right that Google can just crown a new Pirate Bay. In this instance, we prefer Bing’s strategy. Those who use Microsoft’s search engine will still see listed as the top result. And to avoid any confusion, Bing clearly labels it as the “official site,†which it still is. It appears that can only regain the top spot in Google if they start serving torrents again. Whether that will happen should become clear during the coming days when The Pirate Bay crew is expected to make an official statement.
  21. An anti-piracy company has caused Google to wrongfully remove dozens of Github project URLs. Acting on behalf of a porn company, Takedown Piracy asked the search giant to remove links to several projects including those owned by Facebook, Netflix, Yahoo and openSUSE. Every single week thousands of copyright holders and anti-piracy companies demand that Google removes links to allegedly infringing content. The effort required to deal with this deluge is considerable. Google has received as many as 11 million requests in a single week and in 2014 alone the search giant processed some 345 million URL takedowns. While it’s believed that most takedown requests are accurate, Google still does its best to ensure that erroneous notices don’t negatively affect legitimate online services. Google regularly rejects overbroad and inaccurate notices but like everyone else, the company isn’t perfect. The latest head-shaker arrives courtesy of anti-piracy outfit Takedown Piracy (TDP). Acting on behalf of porn outfit Wicked Pictures, TDP sent Google a notice containing thousands of URLs targeting dozens of well and lesser-known file-sharing sites. Sadly, however, the notice also targeted coding site Github – over and over and over again. And Google complied. “The materials reported in this notice are the copyrighted DVD/videos of Wicked Pictures,†the notice begins. Not exactly. Impure Takedown Two URLs targeted – and belong to the Pure.css project. Described as “a set of small, responsive CSS modules that you can use in every web projectâ€, Pure.css is owned by Yahoo. Apparent reason for takedown: Wicked has a movie titled Impure Hunger On the rebound “Rebound is a java library that models spring dynamics. Rebound spring models can be used to create animations that feel natural by introducing real world physics to your application,†the project’s lead in begins. Sadly, TDP thinks that this BSD-licensed Facebook-owned project’s URLs (1) (2) infringes on its client’s copyrights. Thanks to another takedown, a separate project of the same name exploring “collisional dynamics†and operated by several academics is now harder to find too. Their crimes? Wicked’s “Stormy Daniels†has a movie called Rebound. Get down Netflix In June 2013, Netflix announced Lipstick, the company’s open source Pig workflow visualization tool. Unfortunately for the movie streaming outfit TDP believes that their Github project located at infringes Wicked Picture’s copyrights. Another project, also titled Lipstick, was also accused of doing the same. Reason for takedown? Wicked has a movie title containing the same word. A wickedly poor choice of name If only the people behind the free Linux-based operating system openSUSE had been a little more cautious. When selecting a name for their network configuration tool located here there were millions to choose from. But by titling their project ‘Wicked’ they became sitting ducks for several URL takedowns by an adult company of the same name. The same goes for Wicked Charts, whose main URL for their “beautiful and interactive javascript charts†has been delisted from Google. The Schneems ‘wicked’ project likewise. No pushover Wicked Pictures’ 1999 movie Pushover has a lot to answer for too. Takedown Piracy hit Google with demands to delist the main URLs for no less than ten Github projects simply because they had the word ‘pushover’ in their titles. Tip of the iceberg HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/THIBAUTH/PYTHON-PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/TCNKSM/VAGRANT-PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/SUBSTACK/PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/SPS/PUSHOVER4J HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/QBIT/NODE-PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/LAPRICE/PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/KRYAP/PHP-PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/DANESPARZA/PUSHOVER.NET HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/JNWATTS/PUSHOVER.SH HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/DYAA/LARAVEL-PUSHOVER HTTPS://GITHUB.COM/ERNIEBRODEUR/PUSHOVER The above are just a few examples from a single takedown notice which can beviewed on ChillingEffects. It makes disappointing reading. In Takedown Piracy’s defense the company has sent 39.6 million URL notices to Google since 2011. However, that will be of little comfort to the many legitimate projects which are now harder to find due to the company’s errors. Conclusion: Always blaming Google Taking a wider look at Google’s Transparency Report, one discovers that Github isbeing targeted on a regular basis by a wide range of copyright holders. Few if any bother to send a notice to Github itself. If they did they might make few mistakes, but carpet-bombing Google is much easier, quicker and cheaper.
  22. Copyright holders asked Google to remove more than 345,000,000 allegedly infringing links from its search engine in 2014. The staggering number is an increase of 75% compared to the year before. While Google has taken some steps to downrank pirate sites, the rate at which takedown notices are sent continues to rise. In the hope of steering prospective customers away from pirate sites, copyright holders are overloading Google with DMCA takedown notices. These requests have increased dramatically over the years. In 2008, the search engine received only a few dozen takedown notices during the entire year, but today it processes more than a million reported “pirate†links per day. Google doesn’t report yearly figures, but at TF we processed all the weekly reports and found that the number of URLs submitted by copyright holders last year surpassed the 345 million mark – 345,169,134 to be exact. The majority of these requests are honored with the associated links being removed from Google’s search results. However, Google sometimes takes “no action†if they are seemed not to be infringing or if they have been taken down previously. Most takedown requests were sent for the domains, and, with more than five million targeted URLs each. The UK Music industry group BPI is the top copyright holder of 2014, good for more than 60 million reported links. Despite the frequent use of the takedown process many copyright holders have stressed that the search giant should take responsibility and do more to tackle the piracy problem. Facing this harsh criticism from copyright holders, Google has gradually changed its attitudes towards sites and services that are often associated with piracy. October last year the company implemented the most significant change to its search algorithm to date, aimed at downranking sites that often link to copyright-infringing material. This significantly reduced the visibility of pirate links in search results and had a major impact on the traffic levels of some sites. However, Google also reminded copyright holders that they too can do more to prevent piracy. Without legal options it’s hard to beat unauthorized copying, is the argument Google often repeats. “Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply. As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services,†the company noted earlier. “The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.†In recent weeks tensions between rightsholders and Google reached a new high. After the MPAA issued a ‘snarky’ press release responding to Google’s downranking efforts, the company ended its anti-piracy cooperation with the Hollywood group. Not much later, Google sued Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood who secretly collaborated with the MPAA to get certain pirate sites delisted.
  23. It's not a secret that Hollywood and Google are constantly fighting over piracy issues. While most of the public comments are made on search, there's another Google product that terrifies the movie studios. Leaked research reveals that Hollywood fears a huge piracy surge due to Google fiber, predicting a billion dollar in piracy losses in the U.S. alone. Google is slowly expanding its fiber to the home services in the United States. Most recently Austin, Texas, was added to the list and a few dozen other cities will follow soon. Promising free Internet and blazing fast gigabit per second connections at a relatively low price, many consumers are happy with Google’s new product. Hollywood on the other hand fears the worst. While great connectivity offers commercial opportunities for entertainment companies, some are overly worried about the negative consequences. Earlier this week we received a leaked presentation covering the results of a Google Fiber survey conducted on behalf of Warner Bros and Sony Pictures Entertainment. The research was conducted in 2012 and aimed to get a baseline of the piracy levels, so changes can be measured after the rollout. The survey respondents came from Kansas City, where Google Fiber first launched, with St. Louis residents as a control group. In total, more than 2,000 persons between 13 and 54 were asked about Google Fiber, their piracy habits and media consumption in general. The results reveal that more than half of those surveyed were very interested in Google’s offer. This includes a large group of pirates, which make up 31% of the entire population. About a third of these pirates said they would download or stream more with Google Fiber. Perhaps even more worrying for Hollywood, about a quarter of the non-pirates said they would start doing so if Google comes to town. The most interesting part, however, is that the research tries to estimate the studio’s extra piracy losses that Google Fiber could create across the nation. Drawing on an MPAA formula that counts all pirated views as losses the report notes that it may cost Hollywood over a billion dollars per year. That’s a rather impressive increase of 58% compared to current piracy levels. The research also finds a link between piracy and broadband speeds, which is another reason for Hollywood not to like Google’s Internet service. According to the report this is “another indication that piracy becomes more attractive with Google Fiber.†We will refrain from analyzing the methods and the definition of piracy losses, which deserve an article of their own. What’s most striking from the above approach is the way the studios frame Google Fiber as a piracy threat, instead of looking at the opportunities it offers. For example, the same report also concludes that 39% of the respondents would use paid streaming subscription services more, while 34% would rent and purchase more online video. Yet, there is no mention of the potential extra revenue that will bring in. Judging from all the piracy calculations, statistics and projections, it appears that Hollywood is mostly occupied with threats. But of course there’s nothing new there.
  24. The search giant has delivered a major blow to torrent websites within the last few weeks, and the MPAA was supposed to be happy with Google’s efforts. However, the Motion Picture Association of America criticized the company. This so infuriated Google's top brass that the search engine decided to break its anti-piracy cooperation with the MPAA. The company spends enormous efforts on removing millions of infringing search results at the notices of the copyright owners: last week there were over 9 million of such requests, and the company usually removes these links within hours of receiving a complaint. But this doesn’t seem to matter much for the MPAA. Whatever Google does, it is never enough – the MPAA cries that more can be done. One should admit that this October Google really did a great job to downrank pirate websites. Those with high numbers of DMCA notices now appear lower in search results. Within days it became clear that BitTorrent services had been hit hard. But instead of acknowledging Google’s efforts, the MPAA issued a press release, claiming that the company facilitates access to stolen content via search. Apparently, the company’s top management became furious after that statement and told the MPAA that it would no longer “speak or do business†with the anti-piracy group. So, now the tech giant would communicate with the movie studios directly, as those welcomed the company’s efforts, unlike the MPAA. It looks like the Motion Picture Association of America simply had no time to assess the changes introduced by Google in place, and therefore could not assess whether they would work. Perhaps, the entertainment industry doesn’t want to welcome changes that may fail to perform in future.
  25. The Stop Online Piracy Act, an anti-piracy bill that would have granted the US government and private corporations extraordinary power to battle copyright infringement on the web, failed to pass in 2012. But according to emails uncovered by the recent Sony hack and recent news stories, the movie industry is still fighting to revive the bill, even pushing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to make life uncomfortable for Google, one of the bill’s biggest detractors. And Google isn’t too happy about it. On Friday, the search giant filed legal papers in federal court against Hood, requesting that the court stop his demands for information from the company. The move came a day after the company had unloaded a rather pointed blog post complaining about apparent efforts by the Motion Picture Association of America to revive SOPA and push an investigation of Google through Hood’s office. It’s a complicated situation, and it shows just how fierce the battle was—and is—over SOPA. With movie industry lobbyists behind it, SOPA pushed for new ways of removing pirated movies and other content from the net. But internet companies fought hard to stop the thing, saying it would legalize online censorship. In 2012, over 115,000 websites—including WIRED, Wikipedia, WordPress, and Reddit—altered their pages in some way to protest the SOPA bill, with many of them voluntarily going dark. Millions of Americans also sent emails complaining about SOPA, and Google collected 7 million signatures for an online petition protesting the bill. And still the fight goes on. According to a recent story from The Verge, hacked Sony emails showed that the Motion Picture Association of America and six major studios have joined forces to revive the SOPA legislation. The studios budgeted $500,000 to pay lawyers, The Verge reports, and the MPAA set aside an additional $1.17 million for the campaign. According to a later story from The New York Times, the MPAA instructed its law firm, Jenner & Block, to attack Google specifically. As The Times reports, the MPAA pitched Mississippi State Attorney General Hood, and Hood delivered a letter to Google making various accusations against the company, with most of it ghost-written by Jenner & Block. In October, Hood also sent Google a 79-page subpoena demanding 141 documents and 62 interviews from Google, as well as anything that might be construed as “dangerous content†on Google’s network. And this is what Google is trying to stop. “In order to respond to the subpoena in full, Google would have to produce millions of documents at great expense and disruption to its business,†Google’s suit reads. For Sherwin Siy, vice president of Legal Affairs for Washington, D.C.-based public interest group Public Knowledge, the subpoena sets a bad precedent. “The MPAA may have asked an attorney general to go after Google,†he says. “What happens when the MPAA is worried about a smaller entity? Maybe they won’t even need a state AG, they could send some other complaint and get a service that is actually legal to shut down because they just can’t afford to deal with it.â€