Google ready to help hunt pirates… for a fee

A filmmaker has accused Google of “fencing stolen goods.” It comes after reports that Google wants to charge the music industry for helping it track down online pirates.

CNET reports that the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, and its US counterpart the Recording Industry Association of America, recently wrote to Google asking for more help in finding links pointing to copyright-infringing material.

Google’s James Pond replied (in a letter confirmed as genuine by Google) that there were three categories of access to its web search API (effectively the access point to the data that produces the results). The first two were for companies that display Google ads and for developers.

That left the IFPI and RIAA in a third category, which was a paid option. Pond noted ” I understand we charge a standard rate of $5 per thousand queries, which is charged to recover our costs in providing this service.” Google later stressed that it doesn’t charge for removing links once piracy has been established.

That’s not enough for some in the creative industry. Filmmaker Ellen Seidler told CNET that because video sites that host copyrighted material without permission often display Google ads, “From my point of view, Google fences stolen goods.” (She’s responsible for the clip shown above.)

Though that’s a pretty strained analogy, it’s arguable that Google should refuse to let sites hosting illegal material display ads on its behalf. But when it comes to making life easier for the music industry, it’s at best an ethical argument. When it comes to the law — as it currently stands — Google’s results containing links to sites with pirated music on is simply a reflection of how the internet really is, in much the same way as some of the people whose numbers are listed in the phone book are bank robbers.

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