Google takes steps to help curb online piracy

The music industry has mostly welcomed steps taken by Google to highlight legal online sources of content

The music industry has mostly welcomed steps taken by Google to highlight legal online sources of content above and beside search results.

The move comes in response to long-standing criticism of the company for helping people find sites for downloading content illegally.

While content producers have called for sites hosting pirated content to be demoted in search results, Google will instead highlight legal alternatives such as Spotify and Google Play.

However, legal sites that want to be highlighted in this way will have to pay Google as they would for any other advert.

Music trade group the BPI said while it was broadly pleased with Google's changes, legitimate sites should not have to pay to be highlighted.

"There should be no cost when it comes to serving consumers with results for legal services," a BPI spokesman told the BBC.

"Instead, we have urged Google to use the machine-readable data on the Music Matters website, which lists all services licensed in the UK, and to promote these legal services above illegal sites and results in their search, using appropriate weighting applied fairly and equally across services,” the BPI said.

Google has also undertaken steps to ensure links pointing to legal content will feature higher in search results than links to illegal content.

Although Google claims to have been doing this for several years already, it now says it has "refined the signal" for detecting these links.

Along with the announcement of the revised anti-piracy measures, Google published a report on how the company combats piracy.

According to the report, while the BPI made 43.3 million requests to remove search results in 2013, Google removed 222 million search results because of copyright infringement.

Google's actions over stolen nude celebrity pictures

Google has also removed from its search results links to private pictures of Jennifer Lawrence that were published online by hackers at the end of August 2014.

The move came after Lawrence’s lawyers filed takedown requests under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), stating the stolen photos impinged on Lawrence’s copyright, reported the Guardian.

However, it is not clear if Google has also removed links to private photographs of other celebrities targeted in the same way as Lawrence, which included Kirsten Dunst, Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian.

In early October 2014, Los Angeles-based law firm Lavely & Singer – which represents more than a dozen of the targeted women – threatened to sue Google for $100m for failing to remove links to the stolen images.  

The law firm has written to various website operators and internet service providers to demand the images be taken down under the DMCA.

“We’ve removed tens of thousands of pictures within hours of the requests being made and we have closed hundreds of accounts. The internet is used for many good things – stealing people’s private photos is not one of them,” Google said in a statement.

If Lavely & Singer decides to go to court, it will not be the first time Google has faced legal action over inadvertently facilitating the spread of nude photos, according to the Guardian.

In March 2014, Texan Hollie Toups sued Yahoo and Google for failing to remove links to pictures of herself hosted on a revenge-porn site.

Like Lavely & Singer, Toups claimed she had sent Google proper notice, requesting links to the pictures be taken down, but the company refused to do so.

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