While the role of Google in piracy online is, to some, absolutely clear, what's also clear is that Google is certainly visible in fighting on the side of preventing piracy. Google takes down an absolutely massive quantity of links in just an average week, and said links are commonly related to piracy. The numbers present a stark picture of not only Google's stalwart defense of copyright, but also the sheer scope of the overall war between pirates and copyright holders.
The numbers in question, taken from Google's transparency report, show that, in the last week of September alone, Google took down fully 5.3 million links to content that was allegedly infringing on some copyright or another, which averages out to be around eight links and change every second. That number is on an absolutely meteoric rise from even just two years prior, where the numbers were barely scraping the baseline. But starting around Aug. 13, 2012, the numbers started to shoot upward and stayed at an elevated level for the rest of the term of measurement, leading to the recent record-breaking high.
Yet with the war against piracy rapidly stepping up, a new report from the London School of Economics (LSE) casts some doubt on the whole basis for said war, stating that the “evidence does not support claims about overall revenue reduction due to individual online copyright infringement,” a claim that the MPAA and the like have been putting forth for some time. The LSE's report continued, saying that, in the U.K., revenues from online music were higher than those realized by both CDs and vinyl records together for the first time ever. Worldwide sales were also growing, showing an uptick for the first time since 1999.
Global box office revenues also trended upward between 2011 and 2012, with a six percent uptick in the year-over-year comparison. Indeed, according to the LSE, “file-sharers in the U.K. were found to spend more on content than those who only consumed legal content, demonstrating the potential boost to legal digital content sales as a result of content sampling.” This is in turn largely the opposite of what industry figures like the MPAA and RIAA have recently noted, that piracy is killing the respective businesses of said industries.
The numbers reflect something much different, and a difference that leaves some awkward questions for the MPAA and RIAA to answer: if piracy is indeed killing business, then why are independent studies like those released by the LSE showing that business is in fact on an uptrend? If search engines like Google are such massive piracy facilitators, then why is Google's removal of allegedly infringing links on a climb that's been heading steadily upward since August of 2012?
The war against piracy is likely to continue on unabated for the foreseeable future, even if the end result looks almost as murky as the motivation for continuing the war in the first place. But still, it's quite clear that Google's putting plenty of time and effort into waging war against piracy, and making this a battle for the ages.
Edited by Alisen Downey