Tag Archives: Google

Enhanced Anti-Piracy Program Sends Takedowns to Google

Photo: Wikipedia

MUSO, the anti-piracy service employed by E-Reads and Curtis Agency, was dramatically enhanced by a feature that automatically sends takedown notices to Google. MUSO recentlly announced an upgrade that “for every file takedown that is sent we will be automatically sending a Google takedown for the file.”

This extra service is provided at no extra charge to content providers enrolled in MUSO. E-Reads, a leading independent e-book publisher, and literary agency Richard Curtis Associates, provide MUSO anti-piracy at no charge to their clients. The two companies offer this service to non-clients for a modest fee.

The two companies announced their anti-piracy initiative several years ago and it has resulted in thousands of takedowns. But until now there was no effective way to combat the practice of referrals by Google and other large search engines to unauthorized file-sharing sites. MUSO’s new feature will, it is hoped, reduce such referrals.

Here is the original announcement:

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Adopting advanced technology, Curtis Agency and E-Reads have teamed up to locate and take down pirated files of their authors’ books.

The system, developed by Muso TNT, protects against files uploaded by pirates to filesharing sites like rapidshare and megaupload. Files on these websites show up on Google search results and are therefore accessible to users who might otherwise purchase the files through legitimate channels.

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Google to Tilt Algorithms Against Pirates

Last spring Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt dealt authors and publishers a staggering blow by declaring his absolute opposition to any effort to curtail Google’s right to link to piracy websites like Pirate Bay. He said it in such unequivocal terms that we concluded it was time for legitimate copyright owners to throw in their cards. “Any author cherishing a shred of hope for the protection of his or her rights is spitting in the wind,” we lamented. (See Game Over: Google Insists on Linking to Pirate Sites)

But Amy Chozick of the New York Times says the wind at Google has shifted. Yielding to pressure from motion picture, recording and other media interest groups who are being robbed blind by pirates, Google softened its opposition to altering the algorithms that point indiscriminately to illegal file-sharing websites. “Google said that beginning next week its algorithms would take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices Web sites have received,” reports Chozick. “Web sites with multiple, valid complaints about copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results.”

To give you a sense of “multiple, valid complaints”, Chozick writes that Google “received copyright removal requests for over 4.3 million Web addresses in the last 30 days, according to the company’s transparency report. That is more than it received in all of 2009.”

Google’s reversal stands in vivid contrast to the populist uprising that culminated in a Wikipedia blackout last January when media giants lobbied Congress to pass an antipiracy bill. Google and Facebook led the charge, congress chickened out, and the proposed legislation collapsed. (See Don’t Worry, Pirates, Google Has Your Back)

“Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators,” said a recording industry executive.

Details in Under Copyright Pressure, Google to Alter Search Results

Richard Curtis
This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Google Decides Legit Copyright Owners May Have a Point

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Google Wants It – and Has It – Both Ways

Who says you can’t have your cake and eat it?  There’s no point in googling the answer: the answer is Google.

Noam Cohen of the New York Times frames the paradox: “Is Google search an intermediary like the phone company — simply connecting people with the information they seek? Or is Google search a publisher, like a newspaper, which provides only the information that it sees fit and is protected by the First Amendment?”

The answer to both questions is yes. That’s how Google has managed to navigate through the treacherous rapids of liability for anticompetitive practices. Perhaps the easiest analogy is the telephone book. As a simple alphabetical list of addresses and phone numbers it links users to information about other users. Doesn’t look like there’s any creativity to protect, does it? Or does it? Because its format creates a unique database (people with names beginning with A come before people with names beginning with B) it can arguably be copyrighted.

Arguably. But not actually. In 1991 the US Supreme Court ruled that a phone directory was not copyrightable because it lacked the kind of creativity that would make it a unique work, like a novel. (See Feist v. Rural)

But that hasn’t deterred Google from testing the legal envelope. Cohen reports the company is developing arguments to support the contention that “Google search results are protected speech.” Some lower court rulings since the phone book case have given the company’s lawyers incentive to argue its position to the limits of the legal system.

Last fall Google’s chairman Eric E. Schmidt was put on the griddle before a Senate antitrust committee. He was asked “Is it possible for Google to be both an unbiased search engine and at the same time own a vast portfolio of Web-based products and services?”

If Google continues to answer yes to that double-edged question, some law may end up being made.

At least, US law. We haven’t even talked about foreign law, and there’s a whole bunch of nations that take a very dim view of Google’s practices. Whatever the Supreme Court decides, overseas courts may not take Yes for an answer.

Details in Professor Makes the Case That Google Is a Publisher

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Google Says You Can Have Your Cake and Eat It Too.

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Will Facebook Give Bing More Bang?

When you Bing "Bing" You Get a Cherry

Back in 2009, when Microsoft introduced its search engine Bing, we asked: You Can Google Bing, But Will You Bing Google? Up to now, Bing has scarcely made a ding in the armor of its titanic rival Google. Indeed, in 2011 MS took a $2.6 billion loss in its online services division. But thanks to an investment in and partnership with Facebook, Microsoft thinks it has found a chink in Big G’s armor.

By drawing on Facebook and other social networks, Microsoft “hopes to mine people’s online social connections to provide more personal search results for everything from hotel searches in Hawaii to movie recommendations,” writes Nick Wingfield in the New York Times. Bing’s earlier effort to tap Facebook created a cluster of “likes” that made for messy displays. “The new Bing,” says Wingfield, “has a much cleaner design that tucks all of the social search results away into a sidebar on the Bing search results pages, where they are now clearly distinct from the traditional Bing search results on the left side of the screen.” (A Revamping of Bing in the Battle for Search Engine Supremacy)

Experts feel the quality of Bing’s search results is now the equal of Google’s in every way but one: it’s hard to beat a household name. Until bing becomes a verb, it will remain a distant second. And for more on the verbification of Google, see Even with 13% of Web Search Biz, Bing is Still a Noun.

Richard Curtis

This blog post was originally published by Digital Book World as Will Bing Ever Be a Verb?

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Victors’ Remorse over SOPA Defeat?

Stampeded?

Did opponents of SOPA throw the baby out with the bathwater? Cary H. Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, says yes in a recent New York Times op-ed piece.

Sherman asserts that Google, Wikipedia and other Web heavy-hitters cried “Censorship!” like shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater, and stampeded a gullible public and its government servants into reversing legislation that would have afforded some measure of protection to the victims of copyright piracy.

“Policy makers had recognized a constitutional (and economic) imperative to protect American property from theft, to shield consumers from counterfeit products and fraud, and to combat foreign criminals who exploit technology to steal American ingenuity and jobs,” writes Sherman. “But at the 11th hour, a flood of e-mails and phone calls to Congress stopped the legislation in its tracks. Was this the result of democracy, or demagoguery?”

“Since when is it censorship to shut down an operation that an American court, upon a thorough review of evidence, has determined to be illegal?” the editorialist asks. “When the police close down a store fencing stolen goods, it isn’t censorship, but when those stolen goods are fenced online, it is?”

Now there is no legislation in place except the joke known as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, piracy is out of control, and legitimate copyright owners are being stripped of their hard-earned livings by brazen thieves operating in broad daylight (See A Bootleg E-Book Bazaar Operates in Plain Sight)

Sherman urges the Web minions who lead the charge against SOPA to do the right thing and listen to the voices of the victims. “Perhaps this is naïve, but I’d like to believe that the companies that opposed SOPA and PIPA will now feel some responsibility to help come up with constructive alternatives. Virtually every opponent acknowledged that the problem of counterfeiting and piracy is real and damaging. It is no longer acceptable just to say no.”

That’s a motion we’re ready to second.

Details in What Wikipedia Won’t Tell You by Cary H. Sherman.  And a complete archive of E-Reads postings about piracy, visit Pirate Central.

Richard Curtis

Note to readers: Digital Book World has invited me to post my blogs initially on its website before releasing them on E-Reads, and this content is re-published with DBW’s permission. Click here to view the original posting.

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The New YouTube: IT Meets TV

Back in June 2010 we gave our opinion of what we called the westcoastification of YouTube: “Hollywood, there are millions of us who don’t want YouTube to mature,” we wrote. “We like it just the way it is — embarrassingly sophomoric, amateurish, LOL hilarious, pathetic, dopey, dirty, funky, and utterly counterculture. It belongs to We the People. Can’t you go co-opt some other industry? We can think of a lot of them that could use your genius, your money and your values.” (See Do We Want YouTube to Grow Up?)

We might as well have spit in the wind. YouTube is on the way to becoming as slick as television, as highly monetized as a currency printing plant, and as tightly controlled as a high-security prison. A superb analysis in the New Yorker by John Seabrook tracks the evolution of YouTube from”the home of grainy cell-phone videos and skateboarding dogs” to YouTube Original Channels, dedicated to giving viewers 24/7 online coverage of the subjects in which they are particularly interested.

Once these channels are in place, writes Seabrook, “the niches will get nichier, and the audiences smaller still. But those audiences will be even more engaged, and much more quantifiable. Advertisers have to rely on ratings and market research to get even a rough approximation of who’s watching which show. Because YouTube is delivered over the Internet, the company will know exactly who is watching—not their names but their viewing histories, their searches, their purchases, their rough location, and their online social connections.”

For anyone interested in media – and who is not? –  Streaming Dreams: YouTube turns pro  is required reading.

Richard Curtis

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Stop Presses: Publisher Has Something Good to Say about Amazon

Stephen Roxburgh, founder of a small press called namelos llc., has written a guest editorial in Publishers Weekly defending Amazon.com against accusations of predatory behavior and thanking it for its support, without which namelos might not have survived.

Besides the obvious boost in e-book sales, Amazon’s POD program made a huge difference for this embryonic press. “Our new company publishes titles simultaneously in hardcover and paperback using print-on-demand technology, and e-books. Because our books are nonreturnable, most booksellers will not carry them. Amazon does.”

Though Amazon may not strike many as being in need of friends, Roxburgh feels the behemoth has been excessively vilified. “Not since Hester Prynne walked out of prison with an infant in her arms and ‘a rag of scarlet cloth’ in the shape of the letter A has there been such public hue and cry as Amazon has provoked in the past few weeks,” he declares. “From the point of view of this lunatic fringe publisher, Amazon, with all its glitches and stumbles, is crucial to our success. And I, for one, applaud the innovation and transformation Amazon has brought to the publishing world.”

Okay, that’s one. Anybody want to make it two?

We will. Without Amazon’s retail clout and marketing genius, E-Reads would still be in the dark ages of the 20th century (when it was founded).  We are also happy to shout out our other indispensable partners: BN.com, Ingram, LightningSource, Apple, Sony, Google, Kobo, Diesel, Content Reserve, Baker & Taylor and Fictionwise. In 2011 E-Reads sales exceed $1 million and we could not have done it without them.

For Roxburgh’s full editorial in PW, click here.

Richard Curtis

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Don’t Worry, Pirates, Google has Your Back

If you’re a fan of  Clash of the Titans you’re in for a real treat: two titanic lobbying groups are on a collision course.  Ground zero for the impact is the United States Congress. The issue is piracy.

Bills currently being written in House of Representatives committees are aimed at curbing search engines like Google and Yahoo that link to illegal file sharing and bitTorrent websites, and stopping payment facilitators like PayPal that enable transactions for unauthorized books, movies and music. (In fact, you can use Google to link to free versions of Clash of the Titans here, but we urge you to be very careful  clicking on links to free downloads as they may be phishing for your bank account information.)

Among the parties lobbying for passage of a tough law are the movie and music business, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the book industry (see Authors Guild President Scott Turow’s testimony before Congress). Even big unions like the AFL-CIO are pushing for passage, because piracy, particularly the offshore brand, steals American jobs.

On the other side of the issue are Yahoo, Google, Mozilla, the Tea Party and a lobby-full of freeists including, predictably, the Civil Liberties Union, all rallying under the banner of Down With Censorship. “Naturally,” writes Edward Wyatt in the New York Times (Lines Drawn on Antipiracy Bills), “the howls of protest have been loud and lavishly financed, not only from Silicon Valley companies but also from public-interest groups, free-speech advocates and even venture capital investors. They argue — in TV and newspaper ads — that the bills are so broad and heavy-handed that they threaten to close Web sites and broadband service providers and stifle free speech, while setting a bad example of American censorship.”

“Google itself,” Wyatt informs us,  “has hired at least 15 lobbying firms to fight the bills; Mozilla has included on its Firefox browser home page a link to a petition with the warning, ‘Congress is trying to censor the Internet.'” Texas representative Lamar Smith takes a different view of the Silicon Valley pressure groups: “They’ve made large profits by promoting rogue sites to U.S. consumers,” he contends.

Last May, when Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt declared in unequivocal terms that he opposed any effort to curtail Google’s right to link to piracy websites like Pirate Bay, we declared “Game Over.”  Now, with US lawmakers taking up the issue, there’s a glimmer of hope that the game is back on.

But it’s only a glimmer, and if our legislators are true to form, the Right-to-Information promoters will either kill the bill or water it down to the same kind of joke that is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. That piece of legislation is ostensibly designed to punish pirates, but the Silicon Mafia prevailed on the lawmakers to create a “Safe Harbor” provision that gives accused infringers a period of time in which to respond to accusations. Safe Harbor also puts the burden of proof on rights holders, causing them to go through  hoops of flame to prove they are the true owners of the stolen content.

We have been criticized for supporting tough antipiracy measures because they might lead to government censorship. The chances of the pendulum swinging from its current position to state censorship are so absurdly long they are not worth discussing.  Meanwhile, the pirates continue to screw legitimate copyright owners while the search engines hold down their arms and legs.

Richard Curtis

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Après Steve Jobs, Le Board?

Ultimately, the boss

Which is more effective, an autocracy or a democracy? A monarchy or a republic? A fiat by one person or decision by committee?

That’s the question raised by Randall Stross in the “Digital Domain” feature of the New York Times.  He was referring to opposing business models governing two colossi of the tech world, Apple and Google.  Apple’s model is clearly autocratic, a hierarchy topped by its founding genius Steve Jobs. Google on the other hand operates on more democratic principles where decisions are reached by something like consensus.

“One person is the Decider for final design choices,” Stross writes about Apple. “Not focus groups. Not data crunchers. Not committee consensus-builders. The decisions reflect the sensibility of just one person: Steven P. Jobs, the C.E.O. By contrast, Google has followed the conventional approach, with lots of people playing a role. That group prefers to rely on experimental data, not designers, to guide its decisions.”

Though his analysis is fairly balanced, Stross clearly favors the Apple model for its efficiency in converting its boss’s brainstorms into beautifully modeled, handsomely packaged, brilliantly marketed products, and it would be hard to quarrel with that assessment.  But he has omitted one downside factor that balances, and maybe outweighs, all the flaws in Google’s groupthink approach to decision-making.  If – when – something happens to Jobs, what will become of Apple?

Early in 2009, when the indispensable Jobs’ was forced to temporarily give up leadership to combat pancreatic cancer, we reminded our readers of Charles De Gaulle’s grim remark: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

“Every business captain,” we said, “needs to post that quotation on the wall in front of his or her desk as a reminder that great leaders must be great delegators. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, is as indispensable as corporate heads can possibly be, but adverse health has forced him, as it did De Gaulle, to look at his mortality and relinquish to others tasks that threaten to sap the energy he needs to restore his health.” (See My Irreplaceable You.) Jobs’s medical leave in ’09 was enough to depress the value of Apple’s shares by 2% in the domestic stock market and as much as 7.9% overseas.

We need to look at the Apple strongman’s mortality and see beyond today. Though he has populated his company with gifted managers, Apple’s fate might well be encapsulated in the bon mot uttered by another brilliant and indispensable autocrat, choreographer Georges Ballanchine: “Après moi le board”.

“At Apple,” says stross, “one is the magic number.” But one is succeeded by an infinite string of numbers, and whether all of them add up to the effectiveness of Apple’s Number One in creating and producing astounding technical wonders, we will inevitably find out.

The Auteur vs. the Committee by Randall Stross.

Richard Curtis

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Steal This Video? No Problem, Says YouTube

If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em.

Since media companies can’t stop people from recording movies and television shows and uploading them to YouTube, YouTube has found a way to make a profit on this illegal activity. It leaves the video clips up, runs ads with them, and splits the revenue with the movie or television company, according to Claire Cain Miller of the New York Times.

When you upload clips from your favorite show to YouTube (yes, I’m talking about YOU),”they are automatically recognized by YouTube, using a system called Content ID that scans videos and compares them to material provided by copyright owners,” writes Miller. The website monetizes your clips with ads and shares the money with the proper copyright owner.

How much do you get? Nothing. What were you expecting for your illicit activity? Be grateful you haven’t been clapped in the Googleplex dungeon beneath Mountain View, California.

YouTube was acquired by Google for $1.65 billion in 2006 and despite traffic that is the envy of any website, the company has struggled to find a profitable formula. (See YouTube Goes Hollywood) The bandwidth necessary to service all that traffic was eating up the profits, and copyright headaches created by illegal uploaders were driving executives up the wall. “YouTube’s new profitable relationship with content creators was not always so easy,” Miller reminds us. “For a long time, YouTube executives spent their time across conference tables with lawyers worried about copyright violations.”

Now, with the “Join ‘Em” solution, YouTube is starting to mint the kind of money Google envisioned five years ago.

YouTube Ads Turn Videos Into Revenue

Richard Curtis

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