Google Extends Censorship to Pirate Bay, isoHunt, 4Shared And Others

Google’s attempts to overcome its own piracy liabilities have now taken the form of censoring all of the renowned file-sharing websites from its Autocomplete and Instant services.

By filtering words like “torrents”, “BitTorrent” and “RapidShare” a rapid decrease in Google’s searches has been noticed, a TorrentFreak report shows. When they started the filtering system at the beginning of 2011, only a few piracy-related terms were censored, but now, with SOPA coming in hard, everyone’s being cautious, and they should be.

Search terms like “thepiratebay,” “the pirate bay,” “isohunt,” “torrentreactor,” “btjunkie,” “kickasstorrents,” “sumotorrent,” “btmon,” “extratorrent” and so on were excluded from Google’s “Autocomplete” and “Instant”.

The updated blacklist includes rogue sites like 4shared, filesonic and fileserve. Even if Google is not censoring the website itself, the filtering system proves to be working as the graphic below shows a significant drop in Google’s searches for the “banned” terms.

Graphic for Hotfile searches after being censored in January

Regarding the efficiency of the system, Google’s spokesman Mistique Cano told TorrentFreak:

“While there is no silver bullet for infringement online, this measure is one of several that we have implemented to curb copyright infringement online.”

“This is something we looked at and thought we could make some narrow and relatively easy changes to our Autocomplete algorithm that could make a positive difference,” he added.

On the other side, isoHunt’s owner Gary Fung told TF that Google’s actions may lead to an unwanted and unfortunate path.

“It’s a lot more subtle than the censorship attempts made possible by the pending PROTECT IP and SOPA bills, but it’s still censorship and it starts small. Google is increasingly becoming a self-righteous Big Brother of the Web. So much for ‘Do no evil’.”

Pirate Bay had something to say as well:

”It’s just another step towards censoring their search engine altogether – without a legal basis. We’re also wondering why this happens at almost the same time as they’ve released Google Music – a service where they sell music which in some cases might be found on The Pirate Bay,” a Pirate Bay insider confessed to TF.

Against all criticism and implications, Google is determined to widen its filtering list.

Google Music: A New Music Service For You, A Rival For iTunes

It finally happened. Google Music opened its gates, being the third legal digital music service, after iTunes and Amazon.

By combining Google Music with Google+, the company’s social network, users can now share tracks with each other; an interesting feature that may quickly boost the service’s popularity.

Unfortunately, Google Music is only available, for now, in the United States. Among purchasable tracks, the service is also offering free MP3 downloads on a daily basis.

How does it work with Google+? After you download or purchase a track and save it to your music library, press the “share” button to post it on your Google+ account. Although iTunes’ Ping is similar to Google+, its popularity is way behind the search-engine’s social network.

Initially launched as a cloud service, Google Music decided to keep this feature, holding up to 20.000 songs. A drawback in comparison to iTunes’ match subscription service is that users have to upload all of their songs.

Google also promised to promote artists and their work; they delivered by creating the Artist Hub where bands can sell their work directly to their fans. Moreover, the band can create its own page, establish the price of their merchandise and sell on its own terms (70-30 split with Google).

“Whether you’re on a label or the do-it-yourself variety, artists are at the heart of Google Music,” reads a Google blog post.

“With the Google Music artist hub, any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans — essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store.”

Great features for a promising music service that may overshadow the popularity of iTunes sooner than we think. You can download the application here.

BPI Tries to Get More ISPs to Block Pirate Bay

A recent report tells about the desperate efforts of BPI, the voice of the UK recorded music bizz, to extend its web-blocking policy concerning Pirate Bay onto other major internet providers, such as Virgin Media, Sky, O2, Orange and TalkTalk.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI) formally requested BT to block access to the rogue site known as Pirate Bay, invoking the MPA vs. BT case, a well-known and discussed lawsuit that managed to set a precedent in the battle against piracy due to the court’s decision to order BT to censor Newzbin.

Now the music industry – aided by numerous industry trade organisations – wishes that BT would voluntarily block Pirate Bay without injunction. If BT fails to comply, it’s likely that BPI would seek justice in the court of law by obtaining the necessary injunction.

Considering that a “decent” censorship system should be extended onto other ISPs as well, BPI has now extended its main objective, that of blacklisting Pirate Bay, to all of UK’s major internet providers.

Quoting BPI, Music Week posted:

“We are engaging in further dialogue with BT on this matter. We have also written to Britain’s other major ISPs – O2, Orange, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media – asking them to block access to The Pirate Bay and will await their responses”.

The Copyright Bomb: SOPA, Artists and File-Sharing

The Stop Online Piracy Act, over which we’ve written so much, is the catalyst of the “Internet Censorship Day” (which took place on the 16th of November), an anti-SOPA movement started by internet companies such as Reddit, Tumblr and Mozilla.

Both opponents and supporters of the act have been active in the past few weeks, debating whether this new legislation is a feasible solution. Here are the opinions of some well-established artists who mainly picked up on the ‘evil file-sharing’ part neglecting lots of nuances, losing lots of fans because of it (as reported by phoenixnewtimes.com.)

Elton John

Back in 2009, Elton John, also known as “Rocket Man”, expressed his opinion on music piracy:

“I am of the view that the unchecked proliferation of illegal downloading (even on a “non-commercial” basis) will have a seriously detrimental effect on musicians, and particularly young musicians and those composers who are not performing artists.”

Lily Allen

Following the example of Ed O’Brien from Radiohead and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd (both members of the Featured Artists Coalition), Lily Allen created a blog under the name “It’s not alright”, which was later taken down. According to Allen’s claims, the already successful artists don’t care about making more money. A rather ironic remark since Allen got famous back in 2006 when her song “Smile” was passed around the internet.

Sigur Rós

The post-rock band released a video, sponsored by Music Matters, to underline the value of music, both artistically and financially.

Lars Ulrich

One of the core members of Metallica, Lars Ulrich was the band’s advocate against Napster. After the case was settled, 300.000 users were banned from the service, and Ulrich commented on the case:

“We were just so stuck in our controlling ways of wanting to control everything that had to do with Metallica. So we were caught off-guard and we had a little bit of a rougher landing on that one than on other times than when we just blindly leaped. But you know, I’m still proud of the fact that we did leap . . . and I took a lot of hits and it was difficult.”

However, the band’s new stance with regard to file-sharing has suffered some changes.

Bono

In 2009 U2’s frontman Paul David Hewson (mostly known as Bono), told USA Today:

“It’s not the place for rich rock stars to ask for more money, but somebody should fight for fellow artists, because this is madness. Music has become tap water, a utility, where for me it’s a sacred thing, so I’m a little offended.”

Grooveshark Not Intimidated by Record Labels. Fights Back!

In our recent article about Grooveshark we’ve explained how and why this popular media service has been targeted by Universal Music.

A 45 pages complaint form tries to justify the imminent lawsuit against Grooveshark by implying that the service is nothing but a “pirate website”. The document also accuses Grooveshark’s employees (from CEO down) of uploading over 113.700 tracks, including names like Bob Marley, Eminem, Guns N’ Roses, Jay-Z and Black Eyed Peas.

Universal Music compiled a list of 1809 tracks, allegedly taken from Grooveshark’s library, and presented it to a court. For this, the label asks for $150.000 in damage for each track, reaching a minimum cash penalty of $271.350.000.

In response, Grooveshark speaks through their General Counsel Marshall Custer:

“We have reviewed the Complaint that Universal Music Group filed last Friday against Grooveshark in U.S. District Court in Manhattan,” he said.

“Universal’s claims rest almost entirely on an anonymous, blatantly false internet blog comment.”

The blog comment posted on Digital Music News claims that Grooveshark personnel were given quotas to upload copyrighted works, and even being rewarded for doing so.

The system’s effectiveness is underlined by an apparent dissatisfied employee. He claims that Grooveshark’s users barely needed to upload any major album. Universal Music did not overlook this “security breach”.

“Accordingly, to ensure that all recordings are available, Escape’s senior officers personally have uploaded thousands of infringing sound recordings to the Grooveshark website and have instructed their employees to do the same,” the complaint reads.

The table below (provided by the music label) shows the extent of infringement, and who was involved in it.

Mr. Custer replied:

“..Universal’s gross mischaracterization of information that Grooveshark itself provided to Universal,” a reference to a database handed out by Escape Media to Universal in 2010 as part of another lawsuit involving Grooveshark who allegedly provided “free access to UMG’s pre-1972 recordings.”

Furthermore, Universal’s offense in this new lawsuit includes several e-mails from Escape Media director Sina Simantob. In one of these e-mails, Mr. Simantob said that Grooveshark’s business was bet “on the fact that it is easier to ask for forgiveness [from the labels] than it is to ask for permission,” and in another that Grooveshark’s success was achieved “without paying a dime to any of the labels.”

CNet was the first to talk about Grooveshark’s predicament last Friday; however, a copy of Universal’s complaint was recently made available from official sources.

Marshall stated that Universal chose to tip off the press (regarding the lawsuit) even before they told Grooveshark.
“While Universal has deliberately engaged the media prior to serving a copy of the complaint on Grooveshark, Grooveshark intends to fight this battle before the Court, not in the press.“

“Grooveshark welcomes the opportunity to present the facts to the Court and has full confidence that it will prevail in the litigation,” he concludes.