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Google: We're anti-piracy, just like you guys

Tim Ingham
Google: We're anti-piracy, just like you guys

Search giant Google has tonight claimed it's on the music industry's side in the anti-piracy war - but the BPI simply doesn't believe it.

Speaking on the BBC's Newsnight programme, Google UK policy manager Theo Bertram claimed that the firm is now actively choking the financing of illegal filesharing sites at their source - rather than considering automatic delistings for pirate sites.

"It’s not for Google to go around the web, judging what is or isn’t legal and I don’t think people would want us to," he said. "When people tell us ‘That’s my content on that page’, we remove the page quickly – we do that nearly 2 million times every month. But our research shows however much you do on filtering or blocking, what is much more effective is to go after the money – to remove the financial underpinnings, the advertising, the payment processes."

When pressed on whether this meant Google was now 'anti-piracy' by journalist Rory Cellan-Jones, Bertram dropped the bombshell: "You can be pro-freedom of expression and anti-piracy – that’s true of Google, the the tech industry as a whole - the responsible players - and the music industry."

Google's response will no doubt confuse labels and publishers who believe the search giant is itself making money through its Google Ads mechanism - found on many pirate sites.

BPI CEO Geoff Taylor also strongly questioned how 'anti-piracy' Google could be when it continues to display search results for content on a legally "blocked site" (i.e. The Pirate Bay) above those for iTunes or Amazon when consumers search 'music downloads'.

He pointed out that Google was in "complete control" of its algorithm - the formula that decides which sites rank above others in its listings, commenting: "Once we’ve told Google 100,000 times a particular site is illegal, we think it shouldn’t come above iTunes or Spotify in the search results... How can that be right?"

Taylor was not directly shown on camera speaking about Google profiting from advertising on torrent portals - something that would clearly appear to be at odds with Bertram's claims. However, Cellan-Jones did mention that the industry says that Google "makes money from pirate sites".

Charlatans drummer Jon Brookes said of the suggestion: "They’re on the make, they’re not showing any respect. I think that’s wrong. Something should be done about it. It’s not morally right."

Cellan-Jones later added that although the BPI believes credit card firms and advertisers are starting to join the mission to strangle funds to pirate sites, Google remained 'intransigent'.

The BPI's Taylor also inferred that Google holds undue sway with Government on both sides of the Atlantic, something the search company denied off-camera.

The most depressing result of the feature was the fate of Son Records, the decade-old UK hip-hop label.

After seeing piracy erode his business, founder Alastair Nicholson was "horrified" by the search results for new release, Genghis by Cappo and Stylee C. He witnessed five pages of links to pirate sites when he searched the album's artist and title in Google as soon as it had been released.

Son Records, Cellan-Jones reported, had now "released its last record".

"Unless you’re going to become a corporate mascot for Barclaycard or Weetabix, I don’t really see there’s that many ways to make a business selling music," said Nicholson.

Cellan-Jones wrapped up by noting that the UK industry's annual worth was now in the region of £800m - a third of the size of Google.

The music industry's war with the tech giant, he suggested, could see it end up "on the wrong side of history".

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Tags: Google, Piracy

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