The Business of Handmade

Let’s (Pro)Active: Google and Copyright Infringement

Just learned from the Guardian that Google will be taking steps to ‘punish,’ so to speak, websites that are copyright infringement repeat offenders.

I wonder how it will play out for Etsy.  Some Etsy sellers get a significant amount of traffic from Google.  Etsy corporation buys Google adwords, but otherwise does no advertising.  It primarily depends on the SEO prowess, social networking, and paid advertising of individual sellers to drive traffic to the site.

Etsy corporation also receives a certain number (don’t know how many) of cease and desist orders from copyright holders who find their intellectual property bootlegged by unscrupulous Etsy sellers.  Just search the site for “Hello Kitty” and “Dora the Explorer” and you’ll see what I mean – I reckon very few of the sellers carrying products featuring these characters are bona fide licensees.

I think it is interesting that Google will now be taking some responsibility for proactively policing their site re: copyright infringement.

Many websites – such as Etsy – take the position that they couldn’t possibly take any proactive steps against copyright infringement and will respond only after-the-fact when they’ve received legal notice.  This, despite the fact that they directly profit from the sale of stolen material. My understanding is that eBay keeps a ‘letter on file’ from companies like Sanrio, Disney, etc. and has a mechanism to screen sellers trafficking in well-known copyrighted material.  Etsy not only does not have a process; they are adamant that they bear no responsibility for proactive screening.

In my opinion, the sites who refuse to proactively police themselves are leaving the door open for federal rulemaking. Google no doubt sees the writing on the wall and is taking the approach of showing they don’t need new federal rules because sites are behaving responsibly in policing themselves.

This is the way the Motion Picture Association of America handled calls for Washington to censor the content of movies.  They proactively set up a ratings systems (G, PG, R, etc) and rules governing who could attend what (all ages, restricted) that they self-enforced.  This convinced Washington that no official action was needed.  Many people decry the MPAA’s rating system, but very few people would argue that we’d be better off having assorted Congressmen deciding what is and isn’t appropriate viewing material.

Anyway – the article:

Google alters algorithm as Hollywood lobbyists win latest copyright battle
– Move to downgrade websites that persistently breach copyright follows prolonged lobbying from media and film giants –

Google is to make a significant change to its search algorithm from Monday, downgrading websites that persistently breach copyright laws.

The move is a victory for media and entertainment giants, which have complained for years that Google does not do enough to prevent access to material that breaches strict copyright laws on content such as music videos and TV shows.

Google said in a blogpost that it would take into account the number of valid copyright takedown notices that it received for any given sites. Those sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in user search results, it said.

“This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily – whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify,” wrote Amit Singhal, the company’s senior vice-president for engineering.

The decision follows prolonged behind-the-scenes lobbying by the music and film industries to get Google to demote the search position of sites which they say infringe their copyrights, such as the Pirate Bay.

[continues on Guardian website]

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