Last week Google published its How Google Fights Piracy Report where it set out a list of ways in which Google has, over the past few years, adapted its products (such as YouTube) to help fight piracy of copyrighted content. This week the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) responded that Google’s plan is not enough:
“We absolutely agree that the promotion of high-quality, legitimate platforms where audiences can watch their favorite TV shows and movies is critical,” says a spokesperson. “What’s missing from this report, though, is an acknowledgment of Google’s responsibility as the major gatekeeper of the internet. No one is suggesting that Google alone can stop piracy, but Google can and should play a more constructive role in directing consumers to legal content.”
The MPAA’s gripe seems to be in large part based on the fact that Google’s report does less to state how Google will in the future implement measures to help rights holders enforce and protect their content against piracy via the Google products (search, YouTube, etc…) and more seems to focus on pointing out how Google’s products are for the most part used for legitimate, non-piracy purposes:
“There are more than 60 trillion addresses on the web,” it says. “Only an infinitesimal portion of those trillions infringe copyright.”
Google’s report further goes on to encourage rights holders to pursue “Better Legal Alternatives”:
The best way to fight piracy is with better, convenient, legal alternatives. On YouTube and Play, Google is committed to creating those compelling alternatives for users. Each time a music fan chooses YouTube or Play over an unauthorized source, for example, it’s a victory against piracy. And thousands of copyright owners now use Content ID on YouTube to elect to monetize user-generated content on YouTube, rather than take it down, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties from Google each year.
Ultimately, the takeaway from Google’s report will depend on the reader’s source of income.
Specifically, entrepreneurs and start-up companies tend to seek “legal alternatives” versus enforcement to leverage their intellectual property due to the obvious fact that it costs much less for an entrepreneur to innovate legal alternatives to drive their business model than to pay a legal team to go to court over potential infringement.
On the other side of the fence, large companies (like members of the MPAA) who no longer have the flexibility (or maybe even the entrepreneurial talent) for innovation will prefer to rely on enforcement as a means to maintain their positions in the marketplace. What they may lack in entrepreneurial talent, they make up in resources for litigation. So those companies, and obviously their legal staff, would not agree with Google’s “legal alternatives” approach — they would prefer Google to create mechanisms that more easily lend to IP enforcement.
My two cents: At the end of the day, I think that Google’s “legal alternatives” approach is the more sustainable path in the digital age. No amount of litigation or other enforcement actions will end piracy — the court system will always lag years behind whatever new ways “pirates” develop to exploit third party IP. That is the nature of the legal system. So Google is right in that IP owners need to adapt to the technology to monetize their IP, they will not, ultimately, be successful in using the law to force technology to adapt to them.