ArtsWatch: Google's Legit Links Lagging

RIAA's Google search finds pirate sites still top rankings
February 25, 2013 -- 7:19 am PST
By Philip Merrill / GRAMMY.com

In recent news ...

RIAA Harps On Google's Unfulfilled Pledge To Demote Pirates
On Feb. 21 the RIAA released a report as a follow-up to Google's August announcement that links to illegal music sites would receive lower ranking in search results. RIAA Executive Vice President/General Counsel Steven M. Marks said, "Google's demotion program is not working. We encourage Google to immediately make the necessary changes so its pledge becomes a reality." Sites that were repeatedly reported to Google as infringing continued to appear on the first page of search results 98 percent of the time, and "consistently showed up in three to five of the top 10 search results" according to the RIAA. This finding was consistent with a Billboard.biz survey reported on Feb. 4 that compared current results to November 2012 and found that things had gotten worse in most cases. As the RIAA's polite tone makes clear, Google's cooperative efforts are treasured, but it seems Internet content pirates are managing to find their way past the search giant's well-intentioned efforts.

USC Gives Google Props For Making Its Ad Network Less Pirate-Friendly
The University of Southern California's Annenberg Innovation Lab released its second monthly report on Feb. 14 compiling data on Internet advertising networks associated with infringing sites. Unlike the January report, Google did not make the top 10. The lab said it welcomed "the cooperation we received from firms like Google and Open X to make sure that ads from their servers are not placed on infringing sites." This latest report also named 31 top international brands whose ads widely appear on infringing sites and noted, "A cursory view of this list would lead one to conclude that the young adult demographic found on infringing sites seems to be very attractive to the auto, auto insurance, mobile phone, and credit ratings firms." The Copyright Alliance announced an online petition on Feb. 21 directed to the CEOs of the listed companies, asking them to "pledge not to advertise on sites which illegally exploit the work of creators without their permission."

Resolution Opposing Broadcast Performance Rights Re-Introduced
On Feb. 15 Rep. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) introduced H. Con. Res. 16, the latest version of the Local Radio Freedom Act, opposing performers' radio royalties by labeling them a new tax that would impose "punitive fees" on struggling local radio stations. This latest version is identical to the language introduced in 2011 during the previous Congress and opposed by The Recording Academy. Although it enjoys bipartisan support and has 71 cosponsors, comparable resolutions, with far more cosponsors, have been introduced since 2007 without winning passage. The bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee and as expected, the National Association of Broadcasters supported it. In its coverage, radio trade Inside Radio reported both the musicFIRST Coalition's opposition to the Resolution, and The Academy's pro-performance rights briefing in Los Angeles for lawmakers during GRAMMY week.

Time-Shifted Television Exceeds Original Audience For Some Shows
On Feb. 19 Rentrak launched its Total Audience Viewing Report, measuring network and cable TV viewership including DVR and video-on-demand for 28 days beyond programs' original presentation schedules. In a significant "coming of age" measurement for time-shifted video, several shows drew larger audiences outside of their scheduled broadcast times, including "Burn Notice," "Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills," "Sons Of Anarchy," and "Vampire Diaries." In early 2003 time-shifted TV was such a novelty that former Federal Communications Commission Chairman Michael Powell described the DVR he received for Christmas 2002 as "God's machine." A decade later consumers have become accustomed to getting the entertainment they want when they want it.

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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