Google blasted by RIAA

Search engine Google has been blasted by the RIAA for not doing enough to stop piracy.

A year ago Google said that it would take four specific anti-piracy steps including responding to takedowns quicker, removing piracy-related terms from autocomplete, make it harder for infringing sites to participate in AdSense, and make it easier to find ‘legitimate content’ in search results.

A year on the RIAA has issued what it calls its report card on what it thinks is Google’s slow progress towards making this happen.

In the report, the RIAA claims that Google’s efforts are “incomplete.” It’s important to understand what the RIAA means by this because it gives a clear indication about what it really wants.

The group moans that if you type in a torrent related phrase,  the autocomplete still gives you answers instead of automatically stunning you, calling the police and ordering an airstrike on your location.

It thinks that Google should prioritise sites which sell RIAA blessed material over “unauthorised sites”. This sounds harmless enough but Google would be justified in pointing out that gives the RIAA power to decide which of its members should be at the top of any search.

It added that Google “needs to be more proactive” about blocking infringing sites from using Google’s AdSense advertising program. At the moment if the RIAA sees a site it does not like, it has to go through all the bother of sending a take down notice to Google. What it would like is for Google to censor its own results by psychically working out what the RIAA doesn’t like and taking it down without it asking. This would save the RIAA all the bad press when it fingers the wrong site such as it did in the recent Megaupload and Hotfile SNAFUs.

But the report moans the most about Google’s promise to respond quickly to takedown requests.

While Google kept its promise to provide faster takedowns in its Blogger and search sections, it does not censor Android Marketplace. The RIAA claims that it does not adequately screen apps before accepting them in its app store. It also complains that apps removed from the Marketplace aren’t automatically blacklisted from AdSense and Google Wallet.

What the RIAA fails to point out is that Google does not have to actually do anything to help it at all, as Ars Technica points out.

The big word that the RIAA keeps using is “proactive”, which seems to mean do what we want without us having to tell you, or go to court.

Big Content does have some success in getting people to do its job for it. Thanks to those nice people in Congress, the FBI has been arresting people the RIAA has fingered as pirates. In some cases perfectly legitimate sites have been offline while the mess gets sorted out.

Even if Google wanted to become the RIAA’s chum it would be tricky. The Report moans that Google “raises alarmist, self-serving criticism to any legislative proposal to deter or thwart rampant copyright infringement.”

Google has probably worked out that the RIAA is never going to be friendly to it. While it touts voluntary codes, the RIAA is dismissive of Google’s own efforts. It is probably better for the search engine to obey the law rather than go down the rather messy road of trying to butter up Big Content.

When reading the report card you can’t help but see the not-so veiled threats against the search engine: “Despite its steps, the simple fact is that Google continues to both (i) receive financial benefits from sites and applications that engage in piracy and (ii) place artificial road blocks in rights holders’ efforts to protect their content online, contrary to the DMCA,” which sounds to us like a court brief where the prosecution outlines the “charges”.