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Wednesday, 17 August 2016 07:09

And the prize for copyright violation goes to...


US and other authorities are missing the woods for the trees by not pursuing the biggest violator of copyright on the Internet: Google.

Nearly a month ago, the owner of Kickass Torrents was arrested in Poland. Since then the popular meta-search engine Torrentz closed its doors and rights holder Rightscorp won a court battle against Cox Communications, leading to it warning every ISP in the US that it would be coming after all of them.

Not that all of this will make a difference when it comes to copyright violation.

In the midst of this volley of action, nobody dares to say a word against Google.

Consider this: the copyright restrictions imposed by the International Olympic Committee for the Rio Games are among the most draconian around. In Australia, for example, only Channel Seven, the TV outlet that has bought the rights, can show live footage. There are ridiculous restrictions on other Australian channels.

On Monday night, the ABC news did not show Usain Bolt making athletics and Olympic history; only Channel Seven did.

But on YouTube, proudly owned by Google, it was easy to find that 10-second clip of Bolt pipping Justin Gatlin to second place. Did Google bother to check? The simple answer is no.

You see, gentle reader, Google operates on the principle of plausible deniability. If somebody owns copyright on any video clip that is uploaded on YouTube and that individual informs Google about it — via a DMCA takedown notice then the search behemoth may act. Especially if the complainant has some clout. The ordinary person on the street? Well, he or she can take a walk and get used to having their copyright trashed.

There are at least a billion videos on YouTube — many of them garbage, to be sure and the site has local versions in more than 88 countries. YouTube can be navigated in 76 languages, covering nearly 95% of Internet viewers.

That's a lot of piracy going on there. But so far I have never heard a peep out of the Motion Picture Alliance of America or any of its sock-puppets about Google. There are countless American films on the site, and even more bogus videos that exist only to provide links to other websites where films can be watched after a little money changes hands. Windows users may also get some malware as part of the bargain.

This studious turning of a blind eye by self-righteous watchdogs may not be unrelated to the influence that Google wields in US government circles. A large number of former Google employee are employed by the US government, many of them in federal policy or law enforcement areas that are of commercial interest to Google.

Google has no customer service department to deal with complaints, piracy or otherwise. No, it has Web forms. Whether you will get a reply after submitting that form is a matter of chance. You'd have better odds backing the nags.

If one were to believe figures that are floating around on the Internet, Google makes no money from YouTube. But then unless that is lost for a good cause — and the only good cause from Google's point of view is collecting details about Internet users that can be monetised YouTube wouldn't be existing today.

The observant among us would have noticed that whenever a Google app does not pull in users, it is promptly canned. Remember Google Wave? That's just one of the many failed experiments from the Googleplex. So YouTube must be adding to the bottomline, else it would have been trashed a long time ago.

It provides a safe haven for piracy and will continue to do so unless there is an outcry from a government that can hurt its interests. At the moment, hoping for something like this is akin to waiting for Godot.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.





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