Congress Urged to Look at Google’s Copyright Controls

Joanne Cachapero
SAN FRANCISCO — The National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC) has sent a letter to congressional officials urging that Google’s copyright controls be examined after the group found hundreds of pirated movie titles available on the search engine’s video site.

The NLPC is a Washington-based nonprofit organization that monitors and reports on the ethics of public officials, as well as various organizations and corporations.

In the letter sent to lawmakers, NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm said, “While Google faces numerous legal challenges related to the posting of copyrighted content on its video sharing websites, there is also a growing chorus who believe that evidence of Google’s seemingly indifferent attitude towards Internet video piracy has resulted in a legitimization or ‘mainstreaming’ of video piracy which will have broad and damaging implications for all intellectual property owners. We share those concerns.

“Since [we originally identified evidence of copyright infringement], the number of apparently copyrighted movies being hosted by Google Video appears to have grown substantially,” Boehm said. “During the past two weeks, NLPC again conducted random spot checks of Google Video in an attempt to identify clearly copyrighted works that continue to be hosted on the site. What we found raises serious questions about Google’s oft-stated commitment to prevent apparently copyrighted content from being hosted on its video sharing site.”

Earlier this summer, the NLPC researched copyrighted materials available on Google Video and issued a Top 50 list of allegedly copyrighted titles.

During “spot checks” that took place between Sept. 10-18, the group found an additional 300 movie titles that were apparently copyrighted, including 60 movies that were released this year.

The mainstream titles available on Google’s file-sharing site included “Shrek the Third,” “Oceans Thirteen,” “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Knocked Up,” as well as several other titles that were not yet available on DVD.

Google said that it remains compliant with federal law by removing any unauthorized content when requested by the copyright owners, and issued a statement that said it is working on new technology that will be introduced in the “not-too-distant” future to help copyright owners block unauthorized material from being posted on the site. Earlier in the year, the search engine company indicated the filtering tools would be introduced in September.

“Google has been promising video filtering technology to screen for copyrighted content since at least the fall of 2006,” Boehm said in a press release issued on Sept. 25.

“On July 27 of this year, Google again announced that it would launch a filtering system by September of this year to prevent pirated material from being uploaded to its YouTube video-sharing site. As of this Monday however, it appeared that Google still had not implemented the promised technology either for its YouTube or Google Video sites,” he said.

Gay adult production company Titan Media, which waged a major anti-piracy legal battle against peer-casting website said that continued efforts against content piracy are finally starting to pay off.

“We have spent literally hundreds of thousands of dollars and thousands of man hours to protect our content online,” Titan Media Vice President Keith Webb told XBIZ. “But, we are starting to see very visible benefits from the past five years of our online anti-piracy efforts. Most all of the major online pirate blogs, bit torrent sites and P2P [sites] now know better than to post or trade Titan Media films. They are all so scared of us, that they are self-imposing bans on the trade of Titan Media films.”

“We have been able to watch as the moderators of pirate blogs scold their members for posting Titan Media films, and they remove our content before we even have to go after them,” Webb said.

“We’ve been able to train the pirates not to steal Titan Media films or they risk us going after them. We believe this is one the major factors to the strength of our business, while most all others gay studios are seeing declines or flat business. Even our hard product DVD sales are up over last year and our online video-on-demand business is booming. Online consumers are learning that they can’t find our content pirated for free, but they are more than willing to pay for it.”

As content producers are mostly left to their own devices, in terms of monitoring and prosecuting online piracy, Boehm stated flatly that Google was more interested in generating traffic and potential revenue, than it was in protecting the rights of intellectual property owners.

“They clearly have the technological and economic wherewithal to do something more about it. Instead, they are making money off other people's intellectual property. That's wrong,” Boehm said. “We are hoping to shame Google into doing something. What they are doing is inexcusable corporate behavior. When big companies do something unethical, it sends a message to everyone else that it's OK.”