ArtsWatch: Google Makes Takedowns Transparent

Google launches new online tool that tracks copyright owners' takedown requests
June 04, 2012 -- 7:59 am PDT
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

On May 24 Google announced that its Transparency Report data-sharing destination was updated to include takedown notices for infringing search results. The tool tracked more than 1.3 million removal requests in the past month for material hosted by more than 24,000 domains. Senior Copyright Counsel Fred von Lohmann said, "We believe that the time-tested 'notice-and-takedown' process for copyright strikes the right balance between the needs of copyright owners, the interests of users and our efforts to provide a useful Google Search experience." Brad Buckles, RIAA executive vice president, anti-piracy, responded on May 30, acknowledging Google's statement that it "processes an overwhelming number of notices" but insisting that "even more transparency is needed to fully understand the scope of the problem" because the size of the infringement greatly exceeds the tally of takedowns. In addition to Google's daily caps on the maximum number of searches copyright holders may perform and how many violations they may report, the targeted domains commonly refresh their supply of infringing content at new Web addresses. Buckles said, "This highlights the futility of the exercise: If 'take down' does not mean 'keep down,' then Google's limitations merely perpetuate the fraud wrought on copyright owners by those who game the system." Google's Transparency Report had previously been dedicated exclusively to tracking governments' requests to censor content and related disruptions of the free flow of Internet traffic, so there is some irony that victims of infringement find their data presented alongside efforts to restrict free speech. On May 25 David W. Baker, Google director of engineering and advertising, addressed the related struggle to weed out bad ads from Google's online advertising network. "We find that there are relatively few malicious players, who make multiple attempts to bypass our defenses to defraud users," said Baker. "As we get better and faster at catching these advertisers, they redouble their efforts and create more accounts at an even faster rate."

Networking equipment manufacturer Cisco released its Visual Networking Index Forecast, 2011–2016 on May 30. Similar to last year's forecast, this year's predicts that Internet traffic will quadruple in five years. By 2016 "online music is expected to be the most highly penetrated residential Internet service" with 1.8 billion users, compared to 1.1 billion in 2011. Global online video is expected to swell from 792 million users in 2011 to 1.5 billion in 2016. The United States is expected to generate the most Internet traffic, followed by China. Separately, on May 30 China Daily reported that by the end of 2011, China had 325 million online video users.

On May 23 the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Global Intellectual Property Center released a state-by-state report on intellectual property jobs. The study was conducted by NDP Consulting and an interactive map is online at IPCreatesJobs.com. Referring to April's Department of Commerce report on national IP employment, GIPC Executive Vice President Mark Elliot said, "Our study expands this data to capture the economic value of intellectual property outside the supply chain." Commerce's study categorized 40 million U.S. jobs as directly or indirectly dependent on IP-intensive industries. GIPC's methodology produced a total of 55.7 million jobs, accounting for 74 percent of U.S. exports and $5 trillion of U.S. gross domestic product.

Several of Google's court cases have moved forward:

  • On May 31 in the long-running Google Books lawsuit, a Southern District of New York U.S. District Court judge granted the Authors Guild's request to represent the authors affected by the mass scanning project as a certified class.
  • A Northern California U.S. District Court judge, presiding over Google and Oracle's battle over intellectual property used in Android, ruled that the 37 application programming interfaces under dispute could not be protected by copyright. His May 31 decision read, "When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression." Oracle announced it will appeal.
  • In Germany on May 21 Google's YouTube appealed the April Hamburg District Court decision in favor of rights society GEMA that would have required the website to filter content in order to prevent reuploading of infringing material. GEMA also appealed because an agreement had not been reached to implement the April ruling.
  • In France on May 29 a lower civil court ruled that YouTube's copyright policies and notice-and-takedown process protected it from an infringement lawsuit by broadcaster TF1.

On May 24 CBS, Fox and NBC filed separate lawsuits in the Central District of California's U.S. District Court against Dish Network alleging that the satellite television provider's ad-skipping Hopper DVR infringes copyright and breaches retransmission contracts. That same day, Dish brought suit in the Southern District of New York's U.S. District Court against the three networks, as well as ABC, seeking a declaration that the provider is within its rights to offer the Auto Hop feature. Dish customers with the Hopper set-top box can enable Auto Hop for a commercial-free experience of programming that was digitally recorded on previous days and is stored in the Hopper's memory with the commercials intact — an offering that seems carefully crafted so that Dish may argue it has clean hands. Consumer advocates Public Knowledge said, "The networks are claiming that if you don't watch commercials, you're breaking the law."

On May 21 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear file-sharer Joel Tenenbaum's appeal of last September's First Circuit Court of Appeals decision to reinstate a jury award for $675,000 in copyright infringement damages against him. Like the ongoing litigation involving consumer file-sharing defendant Jammie Thomas-Rasset, the settled law determining statutory copyright damages still seems to be rather unsettled when applied to consumer Internet infringement.

The Recording Academy actively represents the music community on such issues as intellectual property rights, music piracy, archiving and preservation, and censorship concerns. In pursuing its commitment to addressing these and other issues, The Recording Academy undertakes a variety of national initiatives. ArtsWatch is a key part of an agenda aimed at raising public awareness of and support for the rights of artists. To become more involved, visit Advocacy Action @ GRAMMY.com and sign up for Advocacy Action E-lerts.

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