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Special Report: Google on Piracy: Not Telling the Whole Truth and Nothing but the Truth – Part 16 Google’s Disrespect for Property Series

Google’s recent “Report: How Google Fights Piracy,” begs cross-examination, for the same reason courts and Congress employ the tool of cross examination and the process of adversarial hearings to get to the real truth. 

We all are familiar with the legal oath: “Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?”

Google’s public defense of its anti-piracy efforts may include some truth and half-truths, but certainly not the “whole truth and nothing but the truth.”

Google has mastered the art of deception and half-truths in public relations. Google’s piracy defense is a classic case study of a company’s willful misleading and deceptive public representations to advance their interests.  

 

Summary of why Google’s anti-piracy principles are misleading and deceptive. 

  1. Google: “Create more and better legitimate alternatives.” The whole truth: first thing, Google blames the victim, implying its content creators’ fault that their property is stolen. Suggesting they are somehow asking to be stolen from.
  2. Google: “Follow the money.” The whole truth: much of the piracy money trail evidence embarrassingly points back directly to Google. It’s likely that no entity makes more money off of piracy of all kinds than Google.
  3. Google: “Be efficient, effective and scalable.” The whole truth: the evidence shows Google actually opposes many of the most efficient and effective anti-piracy solutions that work, despite publicly claiming the opposite.
  4. Google: “Guard against abuse.” The whole truth: Google’s model is an open platform” with a strict no curation policy; by design there’s no Google “guard” against abuse of people’s safety, privacy, or property.  
  5. Google: “Provide transparency.” The whole truth: Google’s limited piracy transparency actually helps piracy interests and harms anti-piracy interests by efficiently and effectively signaling to the pirates what pirated content needs to be immediately re-uploaded to YouTube or the Web.

 

1.  Google: “Create more and better legitimate alternatives.” The whole truth: first thing, Google blames the victim, implying its content creators’ fault that their property is stolen. Suggesting they are somehow asking to be stolen from.

Google self-servingly states: “The best way to battle piracy is with better, more convenient, legitimate alternatives to piracy.” Translation: if content producers did not want to charge a market-price for access to their content, like a movie ticket, a DVD or pay-per-view, in order to recover their costs and earn a profit, people would not steal.

It is telling that the very first thing Google wants to do in defense of its anti-piracy efforts is to blame the victim, by implying that property owners are responsible for the pirating of their content, not the thieves or the thieves’ helpers.  

 

2.  Google: “Follow the money.” The whole truth: much of the piracy money trail evidence embarrassingly points back directly to Google. It’s likely that no entity makes more money off of piracy of all kinds than Google.

Google advises “follow the money.” In the height of Gary-Hart-ian irony, Google Chairman told Variety in July: “Our position is that somebody is making money on this pirated content and it should be possible to identify these people and bring these people to Justice.”   

The overwhelming evidence is that “these people” are – largely Google and that many are indeed trying to bring Google to Justice.

Consider the wide and varied property interests that have “followed the money” and sued Google in court for stealing their property in a quest to bring Google to Justice: Overture, eBay-Paypal, BuySafe, Skyhook Wireless, CamUp, Viacom, Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, wire services, newspapers, broadcasters, movie studios, authors, publishers, visual artists, software providers, photographers, artists, graphic designers, illustrators, and filmmakers. Google’s theft and cover-up deception here is legion.

A British House of Commons report last month on this very issue said:

  • “We strongly condemn the failure of Google… to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers tcopyright-infringing websites.The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective.”
  • "We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results. Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to block child pornographic content fromsearch results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answeras to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content."

A new MPAA study found that Google plays a critical role in introducing users to pirated content:

  • “For the infringing film and TV content URLs measured, the largest share of search queries that lead to these URLs (82%) came from the largest search engine, Google. The share of referral traffic from Google to sites included in the Google Transparency Report remained flat in the three months following the implementation of Google’s “signal demotion" algorithm in August 2012.”

The RIAA, in response to Google’s piracy report last month, said:

  • As much as Google may be doing, Benjamin Franklin cautioned that we must ‘never confuse motion for action.’   At least in the case of search results, for all of the motion being generated by both Google and the RIAA -- our search removal requests will hit 30 million this week -- it is increasingly clear we are making insufficient progress against piracy.”

Precursor’s Googleopoly 12 analysis -- Google’s Internet Video Distribution Dominance – documented, with supporting quotes from Google executives, how Google became dominant via a predatory copyright infringement strategy and willful blindness mass YouTube piracy.

Simply, without Google-YouTube’s willful and systematic encouragement of video piracy, Google would not own and control the world’s dominant Internet video distribution platform today. 

 

3.  Google: “Be efficient, effective and scalable.” The whole truth: the evidence shows Google actually opposes many of the most efficient and effective anti-piracy solutions that work, despite publicly claiming the opposite.

Google’s actual stance of willful blindness to the rampant piracy going on throughout the Google ecosystem is compounded by Google’s opposition to the most “efficient, effective, and scalable” piracy-prevention measures.

Remarkably, Google’s recently updated policy for rating the “quality” of websites for the purposes of serving more relevant AdWords ads to websites, does not factor in whether or not the websites have a history of promoting illegal activity like piracy. The only three quality factors for Google are: “expected click through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience.”

Wouldn’t any reasonable view of the “quality” of websites with which to advertise -- include a “quality” rating based on their known track record of involvement with illegal activity like content piracy? Are quality and legality not the same any more to Google?

If Google were serious about combating piracy it would not want to advertise on piracy-laden websites. An efficient, effective and scalable way of doing this would be to give websites with a significant Google take-down rate for pirated content, a low AdWords “quality” score to ensure that Google would virtually never advertise there or make money off of pirated content.

Further exposing the fact that Google really does not want to discourage any revenue-diminishing advertising on websites engaged in illegal activities like piracy, is that Google does not allow advertisers to control where their ads are placed. Yes you read this correctly; Google does not allow its paying customers to determine where there ads appear and don’t appear.  

This nonsensical, anti-competitive, and unethical policy kneecaps the natural front-line market defense of advertisers telling Google what sites they do not want to have their advertising, and hence their brands associated with. In a competitive market, no company would have the market power to force customers to take it or leave it, either advertise where Google’s algorithms say to advertise or don’t advertise at all with the dominant Internet advertiser.

Can you imagine a broadcaster, cable company, newspaper, or magazine trying to tell an advertiser customer that they couldn’t know where, when or in what way their ads would be shown to the public?

One of the most efficient, effective and scalable methods to combat content piracy online would be to allow Google’s advertiser customers,  market forces, and brand self-preservation to operate freely to protect their own business and reputational interests. If Google was serious about combating piracy, it would allow customers to not advertise for, and monetarily reward, websites significantly engaged in online content piracy. 

Yet another efficient, effective and scalable anti-piracy measure Google will not countenance is to remove obvious piracy-encouraging auto-complete phrases from Google in its search auto-complete suggest algorithm. Google has near perfect knowledge of what search terms/phrases yield the most traffic to websites engaged in significant piracy, given Google’s unique experience with its unique database of hundreds of billions of user searches and its uniquely large copyright-infringement database of copyright infringement take-downs by Google.

The fact that Google has the knowledge, tools and capability to be a responsible Internet ecosystem and chooses to not be responsible speaks volumes about Google’s PR versus it real stance on piracy.

 

4.  Google: “Guard against abuse.” The whole truth: Google’s model is an open platform” with a strict no curation policy; by design there’s no Google “guard” against abuse of people’s safety, privacy, or property. 

Google routinely claims to do what it knows it should do, and what people want to hear to be reassured, i.e. that Google is a responsible steward of all of the content, private information, market power, and influence in its realm.

In another telling example of Google’s lack of self awareness, Google actually claims to “guard against abuse” when it knows its corporate policy is the exact opposite, i.e. to be “open,” and not curate any content or apps before Google makes them immediately available for consumption and use by over a billion Google users worldwide.

The plain meaning of Google’s language: “guard against abuse,” implies prevention of bad things.

However, as a matter of corporate policy and branding, Google is open, meaning that anyone can post any content on Google YouTube, Play, or elsewhere on Google without any worry that Google might prevent them or “guard against abuse.”

Just look at Google’s security policy -- here – to see that Google delegates security and curation of bad or illegal content to others – after it is offered publicly to Google’s billion plus users and they already are at risk. Google oozes that it is not its job to curate, police, or prevent harmful content or apps in advance of them being exposed to over a billion users worldwide.

That is why it is exceptionally hypocritical, cynical, misleading and deceptive to claim in an official report on Google’s efforts to combat piracy that Google has a principle to “guard against abuse.” The whole truth is Google has a fundamental corporate organizing-principle of no guarding against abuse – or as Google’s Internet Evangelist once guilelessly admitted: “it’s every man for himself on the Internet.”

If Google actually had a policy of “guard against abuse” why would Google own the most ignominious rap sheet of any Fortune 500 company -- where there literally are several dozens of examples over the last several years of Google not guarding against abuse of: people’s safety, privacy, and security; and the theft of most every type of property. Facts and public track records are pesky things that don’t go away.

 

5.  Google: “Provide transparency.” The whole truth: Google’s limited piracy transparency actually helps piracy interests and harms anti-piracy interests by efficiently and effectively signaling to the pirates what pirated content needs to be immediately re-uploaded to YouTube or the Web.

This is another classic example of Google sharing some truth, but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

Google makes a PR showcase of all of the piracy takedowns they do in a transparency report.

What they don’t disclose is how much money does Google automatically make advertising against pirated content before it is noticed by the owner and Google takes it down? This is not a trivial question or problem.

Remember, in an FBI sting two years ago Google was caught dead to rights advertising for illegal pharmacies and illegal prescription drug imports over a period a several years, despite several warnings not to do so. Google in a DOJ Non-Prosecution-Agreement had to forfeit $500m in ill-gotten advertising gains over several years in Canadian based pharmaceuticals alone. And there is copious evidence that Google did not abide by the legal terms of the DOJ’s criminal Non-Prosecution Agreement.

Why isn’t Google transparent about the percent of their users does Google send to pirate sites, or to discover new pirate sites when they were not searching for pirated content?

Why isn’t Google transparent and why doesn’t it disclose as part of Google Trends all of the interesting metadata Google has on how many people visit pirated sites and consume pirated content? Is the trend up or down?   

 

Conclusion

In classic Google PR fashion, Google tells the truth, but not the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  

Tellingly, Adweek’s headline on Google’s report was this: “Google positions itself as a leader in fighting web piracy.” The lead sentence of the piece was: “Google is going all out to change any perception that it is soft on copyright infringement. In a new 25-page report released Tuesday, Google took great pains to describe its anti-piracy solutions and provide statistics quantifying its results.” 

As I said and documented in my book on Google, “Google routinely says one thing and does another;” and “Google’s power depends almost entirely on the blind trust it has gained through masterful duplicity.”  

Let me conclude with an apt quote from George Orwell: “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.

 

Google Disrespect for Property Series

Part 1: Google TV: Dumb Content vs. Content is King [10-7-10]

Part 2: Why Google's Motorola Patent Play Backfires [9-9-11]

Part 3: Google 21st Century Robber Baron [9-19-11]

Part 4: Google's "Infringenovation" Secrets [10-3-11]

Part 5: Google's Piracy Liabilities [11-9-11]

Part 6: Grand Theft Automated! Online Ad Economics Fuel Piracy, Oppose SOPA [11-30-11]

Part 7: The Evidence Google's Systematic Theft is Anti-Competitive [1-20-12]

Part 8: The Real Reasons Google Killed SOPA/PIPA [1-24-12]

Part 9: Google's Rap Sheet [6-4-12]

Part 10: Googleopoly IX: Google-Motorola's Patents of Mass Destruction [7-10-12]

Part 11: Four Under-Appreciated Implications for Google from Apple-Samsung Verdict [9-5-12]

Part 12: What Made Apple's Steve Jobs So Angry with Google-Android? [9-6-12]

Part 13: Google News-ster, Google Book-ster, YouTube-ster, Android-ster [11-2-12]

Part 14: Google's Content Settlements are a Tacit Admission It is an Essential Facility [2-11-13]

Part 15: Google protesteth Larry Ellison too much that Google does not steal [8-28-13]

 

 

 

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