Jan 19

Googlenocchio? What a Tangled Web They Weave.

"Google is committed to being an industry leader in eradicating this behavior."

 “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”    –Winston Churchill    


I read with great interest the piece in today’s New York Times by Edward Wyatt entitled “Lines Drawn on Antipiracy Bills.”  The article was a fairly comprehensive overview of the standoff between the tech sector and those who represent the interest of content creators (filmmakers, musicians, authors, etc.) in the debate over the”Stop Online Piracy Act” currently playing out in Washington.


I was particularly interested to read the section on Google, and how, according to those at Google, the company was very responsive when it came to enforcing copyright, etc.  After all, they’d removed on more than 5 MILLION infringing links in response to DMCA notices over the years.  Poor Google….never mind that number represents probably a fraction of infringing links served up by Google.

Frankly, I’m not concerned about Google’s search engine, nor  have I  ever sent them a DMCA requesting the removal of search results for infringing links to our film.  No, the part of the article that made my head explode was this zinger offered by a Google policy counsel, Katherine Oyama,  in her recent testimony before the House committee.  From Wyatt’s article:

Ms. Oyama added that Google also ejected companies from its advertising system when notified of illegal activities.”

Frankly, I was blown away by this observation and immediately jumped online to find the actual transcript from the hearing on November 16th of this year.  From her testimony:

We also employ a wide array of procedures and expend considerable financial resources to prevent our advertising products from being used to monetize material that infringe copyright. For example, our AdSense program enables website publishers to display ads alongside their content. Our policies prohibit the use of this program for infringing sites, and we use automated and manual review to weed out abuse. In 2010, we took action on our own initiative against nearly 12,000 sites for violating this policy. Already in 2011, we have taken action against 12,000 more. We also respond swiftly when notified by rightsholders, and we recently agreed to improve our AdSense anti-piracy review procedures and are working together with rightsholders on better ways to identify websites that violate our policies.

Was she under oath when she made this claim?  I certainly hope not. In my experience with Google over this past year and a half, nothing she said bears any resemblance to my reality.  Perhaps she resides in a parallel Google-verse where the company takes copyright law and the rights of creators seriously?  In my Google-verse it’s a company that seems to bend over backwards to avoid taking responsibility when it comes to the monetization of infringing content .

Over the past year and a half I’ve repeatedly sent DMCA notices to Google reporting pirate sites featuring AdSense advertising (and links to our film). While most of the links I reported were eventually removed, most infuriating was the fact that the pirate sites didn’t skip a beat and continued to display Google ads aside their myriad of pirated movie offerings.   As far as I could tell–and contrary to what Ms. Oyama claimed in her testimony–these AdSense accounts (more recently camouflaged  as AdChoices) were rarely, if ever, disabled by Google.  To add insult to injury, in most cases I usually discovered fresh links to our film posted on those very same sites a day or two later.  AdSense accounts were never disabled despite clear evidence the reported site was in business of pirating movies.  In her testimony Oyama went on to state:

We will need the cooperation of rightsholders to identify and terminate our services to the sites that manage to evade our procedures. While the industry is aggressively going after this abuse, it is a cat-and-mouse game to stay ahead of the bad actors. Google is committed to being an industry leader in eradicating this behavior.

Cooperation of rights holders?  Huh?  I’m sorry but this heartfelt plea rings a tad hollow considering Google makes a practice of sending DMCA notices it receives to the Chilling Effects website, in a veiled effort to dissuade (intimidate) rightsholders from exercising their rights under the law. For the record, over these past months, I’ve repeatedly “cooperated” with Google and reported hundreds of infringing pirate sites displaying Google ads.  I’ve tried to engage them and ask why these pirate operators are allowed to retain active AdSense accounts despite obvious, repeated violations of the Terms of Service.  Aside from boilerplate emails in response to my DMCA notices, I’ve not heard a peep from the folks in Mountain View.  So much for “needing the cooperation of rightsholders.”

Meanwhile, Google continues to profit and funnel money to pirate websites operators around the world. Sorry, but I don’t believe one word of what  Ms. Oyama had to say about Google’s efforts to thwart those violating its AdSense Terms of Service. Don’t believe me? Check out this video I made documenting Google’s aversion to enforcing its own AdSense “Terms of Service.” Of course, in addition to highlighting all of Google’s supposed good works in the area of copyright enforcement, Ms. Oyama went on to say:

Last December, we announced that we were building new tools and procedures to enable us to act on reliable DMCA takedown requests within 24 hours. We are happy to report that we have met and exceeded that goal.

Of course, this too  rings rather hollow considering my experience last week (described in a recent blog post “The Road to Google DMCA Hell is Paved With Good Intentions”).  Is it any wonder I find everything that comes out of Google HQ self-serving, disingenuous rhetoric?  Google’s public posturing makes for good political theater and soundbites that resonate with eager acolytes across the web, but sadly, they reflect little in the way of truth.  Sorry, but I don’t believe a word they say.

Google Ads grace pirate websites around the world.

3 pings

  1. Friday’s Endnotes – 12/16/11 | Copyhype

    […] Googlenocchio? What a Tangled Web They Weave — Indie filmmaker Ellen Seidler has been a stalwart reporter on the mechanics of commercial online piracy. Here she looks at the difference between what Google says it’s doing about online piracy, and what it’s actually doing: working hard, or hardly working? […]

  2. Suggestion for Youtube to fight online piracy | Pop Up Pirates

    […] of removing 22,000 infringing AdSense accounts, expediting takedowns, etc.  While these claims are somewhat debatable, I suppose that when it comes to Google,  any progress is better than nothing. Given their […]

  3. An Elegy for the Piracy Wars (On the Occasion of the SOPA/PIPA Blackouts) « FreeLoading: how our insatiable hunger for free content starves creativity

    […] is commonly used on the same “rogue sites” that SOPA would target, as clearly shown in a recent blog post and video by filmmaker Ellen […]

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