British Recording Group Calls for 'Urgent Reform' of Search Takedowns, Google Responds

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In a statement released earlier today, the British Phonographic Industry, a record business trade group, called for the "urgent reform" of rules around notices and takedowns that must be sent to search engines like Google before copyright-infringing material can be removed from search results.

"Concerted efforts by the wider music community to build a healthy digital market have been held back by search engines and other intermediaries continuing to direct users and revenues towards sites that defraud artists and labels," the BPI writes, saying this weekend the organization will send Google its 200 millionth notice of infringement.

A Google spokesperson, responding to a request from Billboard, says the company has "reviewed more than 80 million alleged links to pirated content in the last month alone, and we have refined our algorithm to demote sites that receive high numbers of copyright takedown requests," going on to say that search engines generate a minority of the traffic sites like The Pirate Bay see. In 2014 the web giant tweaked its search result algorithm to lower the rankings of sites that receive an outsize number of copyright complaints.

In a blog post yesterday, the musicFIRST Coalition -- an advocacy group that chosen as its focus the Fair Play, Fair Pay Act currently in Congressional process and which looks to secure payment for songs played on traditional broadcast radio -- took YouTube in particular to task for similar behavior; namely employing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which provides legal "safe harbor" to "passive sites," like YouTube, which host user-generated content. "Creators now send, at extraordinary expense, more than 65 million notices of infringement to Google a month, and a record 558 million notices in 2015 alone," musicFIRST writes.

Most recently (outside of the BPI's statement), YouTube has received criticism for the lack of ads it places against the music on its site, which seems to be contributing to the diminishing per-stream rate paid to music owners by companies that offer on-demand music.

The U.S. Copyright Office is presently reviewing the particulars of safe harbor -- public comments on that review were set to close three days ago (Mar. 21) before getting an extension to April 1. Across the pond, a more comprehensive review of the copyright structures of the European Union is underway.

Between rights holders and technology companies operating at vast scale -- and both sides having the resources to aggressively pursue their best interests -- this year will no doubt be an important one in the near-future of digital work.

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