After several months of apparent peace between Hollywood and Silicon Valley, the movie studios’ trade association took a shot at several leading technology companies on Wednesday. The Motion Picture Association of America released a report sharply critical of the role Google Inc. GOOG +1.94% and other search engines play in online piracy of movies and television programs. It was the first major flare-up between entertainment and tech companies since the failure of the Stop Online Piracy Act early last year.
The study, conducted by Compete Inc. at the request of the MPAA, found that Google accounted for 82% of search referrals to websites with content that infringes copyrights. The study examined the behavior of a panel of Internet users and surveyed more than 1,000 people in the U.S. and Britain. The study found that 20% of visits to websites where consumers accessed illegally posted movies and TV shows were influenced by the recent use of a search engine and that 74% of consumers said that search results influenced their initial discovery of such sites. In addition, 58% of searches were for “generic” keywords such as a movie’s or a TV show’s title, suggesting that the people conducting the searches may not have been seeking pirated content. This study reaffirms the significant responsibility that search engines share with all of us in the Internet ecosystem to help prevent the theft of movies and TV shows online,” MPAA Chairman Chris Dodd said in a prepared statement. “Search engines bear responsibility for introducing people to infringing content—even people who aren’t actively looking for it.”
Mr. Dodd called on Google to make revisions to its search algorithm to better prevent the discovery of pirated material, according to a spokeswoman for the former Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut. “Tweaking it to actually have an impact would be a good step,” the spokeswoman said. Google last year said it had changed its search algorithm to lower the placement in results of websites that had received legal notices to remove infringing material. But Compete, a unit of research firm Millward Brown, said Google’s annual transparency report showed no evidence that the change reduced the number of referrals to websites hosting infringing material. Google declined to comment. The study also mentions Yahoo Inc.’s YHOO +1.45% search engine and Microsoft Corp.’s MSFT +1.18% Bing. Yahoo declined to comment.
“As an intellectual property owner as well as a search provider, Microsoft takes the issue of online piracy very seriously, and we work diligently to remove links to infringing copyrighted works identified by rights holders,” a spokeswoman for Microsoft said. The study’s conclusions echoed complaints made earlier this year by the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade organization for major record labels, that Google’s commitment to reduce links to pirate websites “remains unfulfilled.” The MPAA presented the study at an event on Capitol Hill, where Mr. Dodd was joined by lawmakers who have supported the entertainment industry: Rep. Howard Coble (R., N.C.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) and Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Judy Chu, both of California. “This study shows that there is much more that search engines must do when it comes to pointing consumers towards legal outlets,” Rep. Schiff said in a written statement.
The MPAA made no specific call for legislative action. The House Judiciary subcommittee on courts, intellectual property and the Internet, of which Mr. Coble is chairman, had planned to meet Wednesday to discuss intellectual property and hear testimony from the RIAA. Mr. Dodd said the MPAA report was meant to encourage more collaboration to address the problem, according to his spokeswoman. Relations between the tech and entertainment industries were damaged by the clash last year that led to the defeat of the Stop Online Piracy Act bill.
Source : online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324807704579083280755306934.html