Today, Congress began asking why search engines are allowed to willingly promote and finance piracy. In a Judiciary Subcommittee hearing, Former Chairman of the Intellectual Property Subcommittee Howard Berman led off with a question that intellectual property advocates have been asking for years. If a search engine can adjust its algorithm to improve search results, why would it refuse to do so to stop piracy? And why would companies selling online advertising refuse to stop selling ads to counterfeiters promoting piracy?
If one’s using a using a search engine and types in the words “free Beatles mp3” or “free King Speech movie” that person will be taken to unauthorized copies of those valuable works. If they type in similar wording in blog postings that may find links to unauthorized copies of those works and sponsored advertising nearby. …
There was an interesting article recently in the New York Times about Google and searches involving JC Penney [adds article to hearing record].
Basically Google thought JC Penney was gaming the search results and took action. The article said “one moment JC Penney was the most visible online destination for living room furniture in the country. The next it was essentially buried.”
That suggests that Google can circumvent organic searches when they want to. For example as the article suggests, “take manual action.” Same thing with respect to advertising provided next to those unauthorized links.
Given your experience with illegal pharmacies, doesn’t it stand to reason that they could take similar manual action against criminal enterprises engaged in IP theft?
Google has crowed considerably over the past week about the changes it made to its algorithm to improve its flagging search accuracy. Given this, Rep. Berman is timely and spot on with his concerns. If Google can brag about cutting content farms from its search results, then it can certainly cut out pirates.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Shultz of Florida raised the further point that Google is complicit in this illicit activity if it continues to seek advertising profits from piraters and from blue chip companies who unwittingly finance pirate websites through ads placed there by Google:
“Online advertising is making piracy profitable. And that’s a huge problem. And online advertising makes piracy seem falsely legitimate.”
Current Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa expressed further frustration, citing the lack of action taken against the search giant insisting that:
“If you don’t go after the profits from ads, you’re not trying.”
ACT wrote an amicus brief in the Rosetta Stone case against Google addressing this very same issue. The language software company is seeking court action to halt Google’s promotion of, and profits from, companies that sell counterfeit versions of Rosetta Stone software using its search advertising platform.
This is a serious problem from which intellectual property owners in many different industries suffer. To date, Google has refused to address it. Given the bipartisan barrage of criticism they faced today, they may not get away with their indifference much longer.