Is Google Too Large To Be Convicted Of Profiting From Copyright Infringement?


First, Google won the lawsuit launched by Viacom against the Google-owned company YouTube, in relation to copyright infringement of its content. And then just last week YouTube won a temporary victory in the case brought by the German Performing Rights Association GEMA against YouTube for its refusal to take down 75 compositions. Clearly, there are significant issues at stake for content owners.

Albeit, according to Billboard, the judge in the GEMA case did “..indicate that there were good arguments in favour of the assumption that the applicants were entitled to seek a final injunction against the respondent under the provisions of copyright law, adding that it was reasonable to assume that the respondent had failed to perform reasonable checks or to take reasonable measures to avoid the copyright breach.”

What happens when a company is knowingly profiting from serving up links and paid advertisements via its Google adwords service to illegal file sharing sites?

Attempts to absolve Google using the data privacy argument are quite simply a subterfuge. Whether it be ISPs or search engines, both have the technology to monitor and track illegal activity. They already do so in relation to child porn. So why not other forms of content? The answer is simple! Search engines make sizeable amounts of money from driving users to torrent sites and ISPs make their money from increased bandwidth subscriptions. So, all in all, they are just feathering their respective nests.

For those of you who cry out, “But how can we compare illegal consumption of music or film content with that of child porn?” Well, in terms of sadistic cruelty, we can’t. However, what it does prove, is that both ISPs and search engines DO indeed have the technology to monitor and report offenders using their networks for illegal activity. This is despite ISPs’ continued arguments that they cannot actually undertake such monitoring. Some state costs, which in reality are not as high as they would have us all believe.

Furthermore, such costs should be borne by ISPs and/or search engines themselves and not lumped onto the content owning industries. As an ISP you have a moral duty to society to prevent illegal consumption of content over your networks, as infringing copyright IS a crime! Going further, the fact ISPs rely on subscribers,some of which use their networks for illegal activity, monitoring illegal activity becomes a legitimate business cost.

Turning a blind eye and citing that they cannot, or will not, police users of our private network is no longer a sustainable argument.

For argument’s sake (pun intended), using current ISP and Google logic (pun intended), if I were to walk into a convenience store and steal a top-up card for my mobile broadband, or even for $100 worth of Google adwords, and the store attendant witnesses me taking the item, yet decides to turn a blind eye (or perhaps even suggested I take it for free), how would the ISP or Google react? I guarantee you they would expect to use the full force of the law at their disposal…probably launching lawsuits against the chain of convenience stores. Going further, what if I as an individual decided to sell-on both the ISP top-up and the Google adwords credit for a profit?

The key issue here is that both search engines like Google and ISPs actually DO profit from allowing the illegal consumption of content. Search engines are even more insidious as they profit from adwords, link indexing and display ads with their platforms actively promoting sites that enable file sharing. Perhaps the content industries should consider the plan of attack used successfully by the US government in the 1940s against Al Capone. Yes, he was done for tax evasion.

TMV believes it would be a lot easier to prove that Google not only indexes sites and serves up free links to consumers promoting sites enabling illegal consumption of content, but that Google actually profits from its business activity and is intimately connected to serving up links to sites, promoting illegal sharing of content, namely from its adwords and display advertising products.

The fact Google profits from enabling (some could even say encouraging) illegal consumption of content would surely be easier to prove in a court of law than indicting individual file sharers? As previously stated by TMV in numerous previous posts, ignorance is not a defence in any Western democracy that we are aware of. So, profiting from enabling criminal activity (driving traffic to infringing sites) is surely a crime Google could easily be convicted for?

How can Google get away with profiting from promoting the illegal consumption of music? Quite simply, it is a company with one of the largest market caps in the world. Even if the whole content industries, games, film, music and newspapers were to take on Google, it could draw out the process till all said companies were bankrupted, due to legal costs.

TMV do believe the content industries would actually have a better chance of winning against Google and other search engines if they work on proving that Google profits from sites enabling copyright infringement.

Surely it cannot be that hard… just type in “torrent sites” into Google and it comes up with over 45 million link references, the first two being “” and “”, with “” being number six in the rankings of the first page of the aforementioned Google search. If that is not knowingly encouraging consumers to illegally consume music, TMV do not know what is. As a start, Google could quite easily stop indexing and serving up searches which provide links to sites enabling copyright infringement.

Other Readers also Read:

The Role Played by Search-Engines in Enabling Copyright Infringement

Who’s Minding the Store?

Trying to Get a Bite of the Apple

Google Needs to Decide Which Side of the Music Industry Fence it is On

Swings, Roundabouts and Lashings of Legislative Lamenting

ISP Music Levy, Legal P2P Back on Royalty Agenda

He’s Baaaaack! – Hans Pandeya

Vive Le Rapidshare – Is A New French Revolution Afoot?


Jakomi Mathews – Founder & Editor, The Music Void

Discussion4 Comments

  1. A few issues…

    1) Torrents are not always illegal. There are many legal files shared via torrents and p2p sites.

    2) Your “store clerk” analogy is pretty flawed when it comes to ISPs in particular. What you are talking about is more akin to the “owner” of a toll road (Cintra for example owns the 407 ETR in Ontario Canada) being asked to pay for the police on said road, or being held responsible when someone has an accident on their road. This is, obviously, neither practical nor reasonable.

  2. Excellent article.

    Google also profits by selling ads on blogs authored with its tools when it knows damn well that those sites steal content. The only method Google offers to report copyright infringement is its online form, which features a thinly veiled threat of financial retribution. The information entered into that online form apparently disappears into a black hole.

    “Don’t be evil” indeed.

  3. Google rakes in more money than you can imagine at any one time, much faster than you would hope they get it… that kind of money can buy many things that stop justice in it’s tracks.

    Illegal file-sharing sites often relocate to countries that will protect them under their law, they become pretty much immune.

    Considering the amount of files that fly through ISPs everywhere, it’d would be all too easy to avoid being caught by the long arm of the law. The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing, especially if they’re coding profit-maximising, illegality-hiding features into their data-processing.

    Google? Well, they’re one big freaking fish, and you simply can’t fry them on a little grill.

    A side note: A store attendant wouldn’t encourage you to steal a top-up card, and even if they did the company who owns the top-up service wouldn’t care, why? Both of these are because the store already bought all those top-up cards from the company, ergo, the clerk would care, and the company wouldn’t. Although that was an effective example, it was a broken one.

    Interesting article, cheers.

  4. Hey, just getting in to one tiny point here, but…

    I would venture it’s much more difficult to take action against the society-wide sharing of files than it is to take action against a relatively small number of people engaging in child pornography.

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