Search Engines Must Help Curb Piracy

November 14, 2013

Google has reportedly removed more than 200 million links to allegedly pirated content in 2013 in response to demands from copyright holders – up from 50 million in 2012. 
This increase in link takedowns is further evidence of the significant role search engines play in introducing Internet users to infringing content – movies and TV shows that have been stolen and illegally distributed online – and underscores their responsibility to help curb the piracy problem.
A study released in September by the MPAA found that 74 percent of consumers surveyed said they used a search engine as a discovery or navigation tool in their initial viewing sessions on sites with infringing content.  And 58 percent of searches that led to infringing content contained only general keywords – such as the titles of recent films or TV shows – and not specific keywords aimed at finding illegitimate content.
The study also found that audiences who view infringing content for the first time online are more than twice as likely to use a search engine in their navigation as repeat visitors.
We are constantly working to develop new and innovative legitimate platforms that deliver the shows and movies audiences want while ensuring that content creators are compensated for their work.  But as the gateway to the Internet, search engines have a responsibility to not only direct consumers to a high-quality viewing experience but also to adopt effective initiatives to address their role in introducing users to infringing content. 
As Rep. Marsha Blackburn said in September: “The question search engines need to answer is this: do they want to be the digital highways for legitimate information, entertainment and education, or do they want to be the get-away car for stolen content and mass exploitation of private property? Leaders in technology innovation are in a unique position to do something serious and they’re being called on to do better.”
Of course, search engines can’t solve the piracy problem on their own.  But their influential role in the Internet ecosystem means they share a responsibility to be good actors.  We look forward to continuing to work with search engines to find reasonable solutions that can foster and protect innovation and creativity online.