RIAA Faults Google for Failing Promise to Demote Pirate Sites

Last year, Google produced a "Transparency Report" that highlighted how content companies were sending takedown requests to remove links to infringing content. The web search giant also promised in August that "sites with high number of removal notices may appear lower in our results."

The RIAA is not impressed.

In a "report card" to mark the six-month anniversary of the pledge, the industry trade group has basically given Google an "incomplete."

“We recognize and appreciate that Google has undertaken some positive steps to address links to illegal music on its network,” says RIAA general counsel Steven Marks. “Unfortunately, our initial analysis concludes that so far Google’s pledge six months ago to demote pirate sites remains unfulfilled. Searches for popular music continue to yield results that emphasize illegal sites at the expense of legitimate services, which are often relegated to later pages. And Google’s auto-complete function continues to lead users to many of those same illicit sites."

The RIAA's study appears to have used Google's own Transparency Report (as well as a Billboard Hot 100 list) to make the case that pirate sites are still too prominent.

The recording industry's main trade association says that it looked at sites that were "serial infringers per Google's Transparency Report" and found that the sites managed to be on the first page of Google's search results over 98 percent of the time. The RIAA also faults Google's "auto-complete function" as suggesting terms to users that would direct them to illegal content.

Plus, the RIAA believes that preferred sites are not showing up high enough.

"Well-known, authorized download sites, such as iTunes, Amazon and eMusic, only appeared in the top 10 results for a little more than half of the searches," says the report card.

Here's the full report.

Google recently has been reported to be in discussions with payment companies such as Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to cut off financial funding of pirate sites. Google's Transparency Report also was highlighted in a study this year that said that Google's ad service placed the second most ads to pirate sites.

A Google spokesperson provided this response to the RIAA's report: 

"We have invested heavily in copyright tools for content owners and process takedown notices faster than ever. In the last month we received more than 14 million copyright removal requests for Google Search, quickly removing more than 97% from search results. In addition, Google’s growing partnerships and distribution deals with the content industry benefit both creators and users, and generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the industry each year." 

E-mail: eriq.gardner@thr.com; Twitter: @eriqgardner