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As it issues its 50 millionth takedown request, BPI calls on Google to do more about piracy

By | Published on Monday 18 November 2013


Following the news last week that Google had so far received 200 million takedown requests this year from the intellectual property sectors, with the record industry the most prolific requester, the UK’s record label trade body the BPI has confirmed it has now sent over 50 million takedown notices to the search engine, since it started routinely requesting the removal of links to copyright infringing content from the web giant’s search results.

The BPI, which started issuing takedown requests to Google just two and half years ago, is apparently the first rights organisation to pass the 50 million takedowns landmark.

Numerous rights owners across the music industry are now routinely issuing takedown requests to Google and a plethora of other sites that inadvertently link to or host unlicensed content as a result of automated or user activity. The process is based on a bit of US copyright law which obliges web firms to respond to the takedown requests, and which is increasingly utilised globally.

Technology is used to speed up the takedown issuing process, and the BPI’s Anti-Piracy Unit operates its own system overseen by the body’s piracy chief David Wood. The trade body says that its current anti-piracy platform is actually capable of issuing more takedown notices to Google than it currently does, but the web giant sets a daily limit on how many takedowns any one organisation can submit.

Which is just one of the ways in which Google is hindering the efforts of the legit content industries, say the BPI. As previously reported, key players across the music industry have been calling on the web firm for sometime to introduce more measures to ensure legit sources of copyright content appear way above illegal sources in its search results.

Although Google has occasionally made gestures in this direction, in the main it has resisted efforts to force it to become more proactive in policing piracy, and those measures it has taken – the rights owners say – have had limited impact.

BPI boss Geoff Taylor told CMU on Friday: “Google leads consumers into a murky underworld of unlicensed sites, where they may break the law or download malware or inappropriate content, because it persistently ranks such sites above trusted legal services when consumers search for music to download”.

He went on: “Google knows full well, from millions of notices and from court decisions, which sites are illegal. Yet it turns a blind eye to that information and chooses to keep on driving traffic and revenues to the online black market, ahead of legal retailers. It’s time for Google to be held to the same standards of behaviour as everyone else. It has enormous power as a gatekeeper to the internet. If it won’t choose to behave ethically and responsibly, it’s time for governments and regulators to take action”.

While it generally leads on the takedown frenzy for the UK music industry, the BPI is keen to stress that it’s not just the record labels that want Google to act in this domain, and to that end reps from the Featured Artists Coalition and Musicians’ Union both backed Taylor on this issue on Friday.

FAC’s Crispin Hunt told CMU: “A brilliant new band that I recently worked with has just been dropped by their label because their debut EP sold barely 4000 copies. Yet the number one site on a Google search for the same EP boasts of 23,000 illegal downloads, then directs me to an online brothel, next to an advert for Nissan, as I rip the tunes. What more do I need to say?”

MU’s John Smith added: “The creative industries lose around 20% of their revenue every year because of piracy and illegal downloading, and this has a knock-on effect on the future work opportunities available to MU members. Powerful organisations such as Google need to be fair to the individual creators and performers whose rights are being undermined by these illegal websites”.