Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Piracy Debate Heats Up

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the Los Angeles Times (LAT) had a pair of "companion" stories on Monday. We'll start with the WSJ first.

In a story titled "Media Firms Say Google Benefited From Film Piracy," the WSJ reported:

A group of media companies has accused Internet giant Google Inc. of benefiting from the sale of pirated movies and providing business support to two Web sites suspected of offering access to illegal film downloads . . . The allegations are an embarrassment for Google, which assured the companies on Friday it would take measures to prevent a recurrence of the episode.

You'll recall that Google purchased the social networking site YouTube on October 9th (see my posts of 10/7, 10/9 and 10/10 for more information).

Media companies had been complaining even before the deal was struck that the unauthorized download of music, movies and other copyrighted content was costing them billions. In the four months since the purchase of YouTube, those talks have taken place directly with Google.

Now the media companies claim that Google "deliberately directed traffic to Web sites that were engaged in fostering piracy."

The companies making these accusations include five of the seven biggest media conglomerates: Disney, GE, News Corp, Viacom and Time Warner. As proof of their claims, they offered sworn statements that Google sold ads to two sites that "allegedly helped users [to] illegally access copyrighted material."

The operators of those two sites said that Google provided them with a list of keywords to drive traffic to those sites and offered them credit to buy advertising on Google's search engine.

Google now says it will take steps to help prevent future piracy of copyrighted material.

In the related story, the LAT reports that YouTube's rival MySpace is planning to announce a video-filtering program designed to automatically remove copyrighted material from the popular social networking website.

The LAT states "The move is significant because it illustrates that media companies--including music labels and television programmers--want to be compensated for use of their material, and they appear to be gaining leverage in their negotiations."

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