Legal Watchdog Targets Piracy on Google Video

NLPC chairman says his letter to Congress is designed to "shame Google" into protecting copyrighted films.

As Google meets Sept. 27 with U.S. Senators to argue its $3.1 billion bid to buy DoubleClick is good for the competitive marketplace, the search giant is feeling the heat from a legal watchdog group that claims the company is not living up to its vow to respect copyright laws.

National Legal and Policy Center Chairman Ken Boehm told eWEEK Sept. 27 that he sent a report to Congress Sept. 25 pointing out roughly 300 instances of copyright violation on Google Video. Boehm also suggested Google hasnt produced a content filtering system to fend off piracy because it craves the traffic it gets from its films.

The apparent copyright infringement on Google and lack of content filtering technology from the company led Boehm to suggest that what Google says and what it practices according to respecting copyright laws are two different things.

The NLPC researched Google Video from September 10 to September 18 and found 300 cases of apparently copyrighted films, some of them duplicates, which logged more than 22 million views in the past year. The films included Shrek the Third, Oceans Thirteen, The Bourne Ultimatum and Knocked Up.


Publishers line up against Google. Click here to read more.

Boehm explained that Google is meeting the requirement of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it appears to take down copyrighted materials once owners notify the company that intellectual property is being infringed upon.

However, Boehm said, the process by which copyright owners notify Google that their content is unlawfully on the site, also known as the "DMCA take down process," is not working for Google Video.

This is because once Google removes the infringed content, the movies are again uploaded to Google Video within hours or days, making it almost impossible for the most vigilant of copyright owners to keep their content from the site, Boehm argued.

So, despite taking the videos down according to law, this practice has been largely ineffective, leading Google to foster an online warehouse of illegal film, Boehm argued.

"The larger issue is they also have a requirement to not facilitate copyright theft," Boehm said. "If you are facilitating intellectual property or abuse, its a strong indicator youre violating that law."

In fact, Boehm said Googles actions are paving the way for a "mainstreaming" of video piracy that could be disastrous for the movie industry. The NLPC estimates that worldwide Internet piracy results in an estimated $2.3 billion loss in revenue to the film industry, which could particularly cripple small-budget films lacking the backing of big movie studios.

Boehm said he also questioned Googles intent to install video filtering technology on its services, which video-sharing sites such as MySpace and Microsofts MSN have successfully implemented. Boehm noted that Google has said it hoped to implement sophisticated filtering technologies in September but has not done so.


Read more here about content filtering.

Google meanwhile contends that its been hard at work on a filter system for months.

"Weve been developing improved content identification for months," said a Google spokesperson in an e-mail to eWEEK Sept. 27. "While this is one of the most technologically complicated tasks weve undertaken, were confident that in the not-too-distant future, well unveil an innovative solution that will work for users and content creators alike."

The spokesperson would not specify how soon the not-too-distant future is, fueling Boehms fire.

"All theyre being asked to do is search their own Web page to keep this stuff off," Boehm said. "The other argument that has been made time and time again is that they keep off porno, people being beheaded by terrorists, etc., so they clearly have the technological expertise."

Boehm said that he and the NLPC concluded that the only reason Google hasnt produced the content filtering technologies is because it wants the traffic it gets from those films. The letter to Congress, Boehm said, is designed to speed up the filtering technology Google has been promising.

"Our hope is that by publicizing this in effect we will shame them into doing what they really should have done before. "We dont just bash corporations because we dont like corporations," Boehm said, noting that he has defended accusations that Googles Book feature constituted copyright violation.

Google is no stranger to copyright issues. The company faces numerous lawsuits from copyright owners and is the subject of a $1 billion lawsuit from Viacom alleging that Google/YouTube has been hosting more than 150,000 unauthorized clips of Viacoms copyrighted programs.


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