Pot. Kettle. Black

by Maria on September 2, 2003

It turns out that Kazaa has succeeded in having Google remove several responses to search queries involving ‘Kazaa’ and ‘Kazaa Lite’. The grounds? Violation of copyright of course.

Google ‘Kazaa Lite’ and a note pops up on the bottom of the page;

“In response to a complaint we received under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 11 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint for these removed results.”

Googling ‘Kazaa’ yields 6 removed results. Have no fear, though. The DMCA complaint that Google thoughtfully links to contains a list of the banished urls.

What’s interesting here is that rights holders are now picking off the low-hanging fruit by targetting search engines – shooting the messenger, so to speak. Rightsholders much prefer the big, easy targets, e.g. technical intermediaries such as telcos and ISPs, and are succeeding in changing laws all over the world to tip the balance even further against the idea of communications companies providing ‘mere conduit’ as the postal service does.

The latest push comes through the EU Commission’s IPR Enforcement Directive, which sacrifices the right to privacy, the European internal market, competitiveness and the entire communications industry to keep on filling the coffers of content owners. Check out London-based FIPR for an excellent analysis of everything that’s wrong with this proposal.



Shai 09.02.03 at 10:53 pm

Readers of slashdot will remember that the church of scientology used a similar DMCA argument to kill google results last year, and in 1999 temporarily shut down xenu.net by claiming trademark infringement.


Nick 09.02.03 at 11:19 pm

Umm…maybe I’m confused here. Are they saying that the DMCA makes it illegal for Google to return any page that has a copyright violation? There must be millions upon millions of pages which do so. Won’t this basically make it impossible to run a search engine?


michael 09.03.03 at 12:01 am

It’s a shame Google didn’t take a stand on this one. Can you imagine the legal gymnastics necessary to prove culpability on the part of a search engine, simply because it links to pages containing copyright infringements?

Probably, Google did its sums and figured it wasn’t ready to spend that much time in a courtroom. Yet.

Meanwhile, in other news, the “authors” of K-Lite are staring in wide-eyed amazement, wondering how much it would cost for this kind of publicity.


Maria 09.03.03 at 8:08 am

Nick, I think the gist of the DMCA was that facilitating copyright or IP infringements (or alleged infringements more like) is a civil or criminal offence depending on how it’s done. The RIAA is a great fan of suing search engines, especially if they are run by students. (See Lessig on this case.)

As to Google, I think, in fairness, they did take a stand. They could have just removed the links without comment (industry practice) and no one would have been the wiser. But instead, Google chose to announce that the links had been removed and simultaneously link to chillingeffects.org which posted the ‘cease and desist’ letter including the urls. Now, how could chillingeffects have possibly gotten their hands on that letter..? For my money, Google’s response was quite elegant: blew the whistle, got the point across, kept the urls in the (easily accessible) public domain. All while obeying the DMCA.

The problem more generally is that when rightsholders attack the technical intermediary (be it a search engine, ISP, or telco – and I’ve even known rightsholders to go after backbone providers, which really boggles the mind) they hit at the soft spot of free speech. In order for speech on the internet to occur, it must be carried by a large, visible, risk-averse, commercial concern. With a few noble exceptions, these companies find it in their interest to simply yield up the names of the alleged infringers, shut down the allegedly offending websites, etc. etc. After all, they’re just carriers, so why should they incur the risk of everything their subscribers host/post/etc.? The real problem lies with holding these carriers and intermediaries liable for the content they host. They don’t and couldn’t possibly monitor everything they hold and clearly have no intent to harm, so why should they be liable? You don’t sue the Post Office if someone sends a libellous letter, after all. Yet somehow, it’s different for the Internet.

Free speech on the internet depends on a massive communications infrastructure provided on a for-profit basis. Don’t get me wrong – I think the profit incentive is what took DARPAnet and made it usable and almost universal. But most commercial companies’ imperative is to obey the law and get on with business, not to defend speech. Rightsholders know this and use it to maximum advantage. And they have successfully lobbied on both sides of the Atlantic to increase even further the liability of technical intermediaries. For most companies involved, this situation is just a trade of risk and rents. But for individuals/citizens, there is an awful lot more at stake.


sid 09.04.03 at 4:54 am

abt xenu.net, intersting thing..the actual site is not there anymore, but google has a cache of the entire site. How did the Church allow google to cache what they claim to be hundreds of infringing documents?

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