Music Industry Boos Google’s Antipiracy Performance

Google on Wednesday released an update of its online antipiracy efforts.

YouTube has generated more than US$2 billion to content copyright holders by monetizing user-uploaded content through its Content ID rights management system, Google said, adding that more than 90 percent of all Content ID claims result in monetization.

YouTube also paid out more than $3 billion to the music industry, which has monetized more than 95 percent of its claims, Google said. Half the music industry’s YouTube revenue comes from fan content claimed through Content ID — meaning from content posted by fans on YouTube, which the music industry then monetizes.

“Thanks to advertising, YouTube has transformed the promotional cost of the music video into a new source of revenue that has generated $3 billion for the music industry, and that revenue is growing rapidly,” a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement provided to the E-Commerce Times by company rep Stephanie Shih.

“Now with YouTube’s new subscription service, YouTube Red, YouTube offers the music industry two sources of revenue,” the spokesperson said. “These two sources will give the industry the opportunity to earn revenue from 100 percent of people who enjoy music.”

The Discordant Sound of Music

On the other hand, Content ID fails to identify 20-40 percent of record companies’ and music publishers’ content, according to Frances Moore, CEO of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, which represents the music industry worldwide.

Google’s search engine continues to direct Internet users to unlicensed music on a large scale, she remarked, and IFPI national groups across the globe have sent Google more than 300 million d-list notices.

Despite piracy-fighting changes introduced to Google’s search algorithm two years ago, the amount of traffic Google refers to infringing sites in response to music search queries has increased, Moore maintained.

The report looks a lot like greenwash, commented Geoff Taylor, chief executive at the British Phonographic Industry.

Google is still one of the key enablers of piracy on the planet, he said. It refuses to remove YouTube videos that show how to circumvent Content ID, and Google Search directs fans to illegal music sites in preference to legitimate ones.

In a Google search BPI recently carried out in search of the UK’s Top Ten singles, 77 percent of the links on the first page of search results went to illegal sites, Taylor alleged. That was worse than the result of the same test conducted in 2013.

Google repeatedly has refused to make further changes to its algorithm to improve search results. Its autocomplete and suggested search features push fans toward illegal sites, and its app store has no screening process to remove apps intended for piracy, Taylor noted.

The fastest-growing problem area in piracy is stream ripping, a method of illegally converting YouTube streams into downloads, he said.

Google continues to point to stream-ripping sites in autocomplete and to host YouTube videos showing how to use them, Taylor charged, and it hasn’t taken effective action to counter them.

The Case for Google

“Digitization of content has made piracy much more available to a much larger audience than before, and … the content, music, movie, software and video game industries have all been hurt by increased piracy,” said Mike Goodman, a research director at Strategy Analytics. “That being said, their solution is to take a sledgehammer to the problem.”

Putting in a blanket filter is not practical, he told the E-Commerce Times, and “you have to ask, at what point is it Google’s responsibility to be the piracy police?”

Even if Google “could create some magical technical antipiracy solution, the reality is, within a month it would become ineffective,” Goodman pointed out. “It’s always a game of cat-and-mouse, and the antipiracy people are always in reactive mode. You can’t ever get ahead of the curve.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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