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The Role Played By Search Engines In Enabling Copyright Infringement

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According to documents obtained by the Chilling Effects blog (http://chillingeffects.org/dmca512c/notice.cgi?NoticeID=40373) the UK based BPI has filed a Copyright Complaint against Google. The claim relates to links found by simple Google search engine searches for name artists using Google searches. Artist’s infringed, noted in the BPI complaint include; Dizzee Rascal, Eminem, Justin Bieber, will.i.am, Tinie Tempah amongst numerous others.

But TMV asks what are the larger implications of the BPI’s request to Google?  Certainly, it outlines that search engine spiders (crawlers) are not technologically advanced enough to determine whether content they link to is infringing copyrighted material. It does not matter whether that be music, film or any other digital content for that matter. The fact is search engines do actively direct people to sites that are serial abusers of copyrighted material.

To use the defense of we are only indexing what is available online is quite frankly just not good enough. The recent judgement that Google won in its court battle over Viacom and the FA should not have any negative bearing on the fact that linking to sites, which infringe copyright is tantamount to being an accessory to that crime.

Going further, why only pick on Google? What about Bing, Yahoo and numerous other search engines? The western music industry spearheaded by the majors has previously unsuccessfully tried to bring Baidu (the notorious Chinese based search engine), to book – which the IFPI accuses of linking to sites infringing on copyrighted content.

Aiding and abetting criminal activity whether that be intentional or not is a criminal act. Ignorance and the red herring privacy defense commonly used cannot be allowed as a genuine defense. Regardless of whether it is right or wrong, recent judgements in terms of search engines and their culpability in aiding copyright infringement do not bode well for the content producing industries.

TMV do believe concerted legislative action is required to protect the interests of content producers. Let’s be very clear without the continual production of premium content search engines would be out of business, along with the SEO and SEM agencies built up around search. TMV do find the search engine industry’s attitude to protection of content, which their own businesses are so reliant on as morally bankrupt…

Let us delve into the red herring “privacy” defense so often used by search engines and ISPs. Firstly, once a person commits a crime, they lose their right to privacy. Secondly, the “privacy” defense in effect absolves accessories to crime who, whether intentional or not aid the undertaking of criminal acts. This in itself is indefensible. Why should laws of being an accessory to a crime be waived for the Internet industries?  What makes them above the law so to speak? As in society, where our governments make laws, we must all abide by, the same must be for the virtual world of the Internet.

It must also be made abundantly clear to business that profit from allowing using to search and or access to the internet that these same businesses legally have to take some responsibility for the users of their private company’s services. To ignore consumers using your company’s service.

If search engines, ISPs and any associated industries are allowed to have laws, which apply to all citizens and businesses waived for them, then we do not live in a democracy! NO business or individual should be above the law. That is a fundamental aspect of democracy that our own western society has tried to export to other nations.

Referring to the recent legislative anti-piracy measured undertaken by the French and UK governments, it is clear that there is recognition that ISP’s and search engines are not doing enough to police their own private ecosystems. If you privately own access to the Internet or search activity then it should be morally imperative that said private companies concerned are held directly responsible for their user behavior within their ecosystems. If your service is used to actively enable consumers to break the law and steal copyrighted content than as a company it is only right that your company is held liable.

There is a financial argument to this as well. If these companies derive financial benefit via traffic or other sources from effectively turning a blind eye to users within their private ecosystems. That is illegal and breaking the law – YOU as a business are legally liable. Going further it could be said that the business, which are actually profiting from the proceeds of criminal acts committed by the users of these same private companies (whether they be search engine or ISPs) are actually participating in criminal acts because of this.

Whether search engines and ISPs will rise to the challenge of taking responsibility for their actions is anyone’s call. Let’s hope they see reason and that both their industries growth is reliant on content producers continuing to produce GREAT content, which is NOT free to produce!

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