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Google's Efforts to Disable Parasites

April 06, 2011

As a community constantly plagued by online theft of our music, we’re very encouraged to see another Congressional hearing focused on illegal rogue sites based overseas that sell counterfeit and pirated products.  Today the House Judiciary Intellectual Property Subcommittee held the second part of a two-part hearing entitled “Promoting Investment and Protecting Commerce Online: Legitimate Sites v. Parasites, Part II,” with witnesses from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), Google, GoDaddy.com and a notable First Amendment expert.

The goal of the hearing was to examine ways to root out these foreign websites that traffic in counterfeit goods.  A special focus was given to Google’s search index that lists links to illegal content before sites that offer lawful content. This is an issue of particular concern to us, because it directs Google’s users to illegal content, makes it seem acceptable to patronize sites that offer illegal content, and makes it difficult for legal sites to succeed.  We continue to urge Google to give priority to the more than 400 authorized music websites licensed by the music labels whenever a music search is made.

We’re also heartened by the announcement of House Judiciary IP Subcommittee Chairman Goodlatte that he will investigate Google’s search index and undertake further scrutiny of its notice and takedown program.

Let us be clear: there is no doubt that Google has taken productive steps to combat content theft online and we are one of many that have commended these improvements.  These efforts are encouraging and give us hope that Google is truly committed to working with those of us that produce the content that Google users want to see and hear.

But let us also be clear that there is much more that needs to be done.  As GoDaddy.com witness Christine Jones noted at the hearing, “Although some of us have done a lot, there is still a lot more that some can do.”  We couldn’t agree more.  For example, Google’s AdSense program continues to service to illegal sites that offer unauthorized music.  Mobile apps on Google’s Android platform provide instantaneous access to illegal music files, yet Google frequently chooses not to remove them.  And while Google states that it relies upon the content community to let them know what’s legal and what’s not, it’s Google’s level of responsiveness after being contacted that causes us continued concerns. In fairness, Google has improved its takedown speeds, but the improvements are more episodic than consistent.  We are hopeful that Chairman Goodlatte’s proposed investigation into Google’s notice and takedown procedures will help to iron out these wrinkles. 

There are many other ways in which Google can make improvements that will substantiate Google’s commitment to content protection, as its General Counsel vociferously testified to today.  We have appreciated the dialogue we have had with Google, and the progress we have made to date.  But as today’s hearing demonstrated, there is much, much more that Google must do.  As First Amendment expert Floyd Abrams testified, “It is one thing to say that the Internet must be free; it is quite another to say that it must be lawless.  Even the Wild West had sheriffs, and even those who use the Internet must obey the law.”

Cary Sherman, President, Recording Industry Association of America