Content Wars: Google Search, Video Embeds and Private Prosecution in the UK

Google to Lower Search Rank for Sites With High Take Down Requests

Google stated that they will soon include in their search algorithm “the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.”  This is no easy task, as Google received requests for 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone.  Santa Clara law Professor Eric Goldman has criticized Google’s action due to its failure to explain how this is in the best interest of its users and not an attempt to placate Hollywood’s content warriors.  In addition, Google’s remedy punishes legitimate content since the rankings are reduced for the entire site and not just those portions dealing with alleged infringing content.

Seventh Circuit:  Embedding Video is not Copyright Infringement

Judge Posner rejected claims from the content industry that  embedding video content is copyright infringement.  In this case, the court noted the embedding defendant is not “transmitting or communicating” the video since it does not “touch the data stream, which flows directly from one computer to another, neither being owned or operated by” the defendant.

Federation Against Copyright Theft Win Conviction UK Refused to Bring

The Federation for Copyright Theft wanted to prosecute Anton Vickerman, owner of Surfthechannel a website that provided links to websites where video content could be downloaded but did not host any such content.  The Crown Prosecution Service declined to prosecute, noting that

it appears uncertain if in fact what the suspect has done does infringe this particular legislation. Certainly on the evidence thus far provided it is impossible for me to determine if this is the case and therefore I cannot advise any prosecution on the evidence presented. . . .  It is obvious that this suspect does not put copyrighted material on the Internet itself.  His ‘crime’ is to make it easier for others to find what is already there. This begs the rather obvious question of why he is being pursued rather than those who actually breach the copyright by displaying the material

UK law, however, permits private entities to bring such claims provided they pay for its costs, which FACT was glad to do in this case and through a friendly judge was able to procure a conviction and four year sentence.

More Info: Google’s search engine becomes new antipiracy weapon, CNET; Google AnnouncementWhy Did Google Flip-Flop On Cracking Down On “Rogue” Websites? Some Troubling Possibilities, Forbes; Court: Embedding videos is not a crime, GigaOm;  Private justice: How Hollywood money put a Brit behind bars, Ars Technica