If you’ve been paying attention, in recent years, accusations have abounded of copyright violations on BitTorrent file-sharing sites and other websites.
Google, the premier internet search engine, is the path by which many people arrive at sites that offer pirated material in violation of the creators’ copyright protections on the materials. Does google have any responsibility in this matter? Should it be up to google to stop indexing and linking people to sites that offer illegally copied materials?
A hard-fought lawsuit
A recent TorrentFreak report discusses the culmination of a lawsuit started more than a year ago. Amazon, Random House and numerous authors teamed up in 2020 to bring a lawsuit against several website operators operating under the moniker “Kiss Library” for distributing copyrighted material. Kiss Library operates out of the Ukraine, which presented numerous practical challenges during the lawsuit.
Recently, the plaintiffs won a default judgment of almost eight million dollars. After the victory, authors John Grisham and Scott Turrow – both plaintiffs in the suit – wrote an opinion piece published in The Hill, calling online literary piracy “a scourge on American authors.”
After discussing the financial devastation piracy brings to authors, Grisham and Turrow discuss the enormous expense and time expenditure required to reach the remedy they obtained. Their conclusion is that there should be more funding and effort to police piracy so that the remedy is not left in the hands of the victims in civil court.
The Hill authors, the Authors’ Guild and others all support efforts from Congress to enforce “website blocking” on google and other search engines, as well as filtering, fingerprinting and other measures on the highest-grossing search engines.
Is forcing google to filter the correct approach?
It is difficult to say whether this proposed solution is the best one available. Google, as a private concern providing supposedly “neutral” service to connect people to whatever they are search for on the internet. On the one hand, it does not seem fair to force search engines to shoulder the financial and resource burdens of policing the activity on the sites to which they link their end users.
On the other hand, piracy is a significant problem, and since so many people access pirating sites through search engines, there is a strong argument that stopping these sites at the virtual place where end users find them could be the most efficient means to curb online copyright infringement. Further, at least to the authors of The Hill article, making google stop copyright infringement is a much more efficient solution than leaving the remedy in the hands of the victims of piracy.