Google Points New Piracy Report Towards the Music Industry

Google campus
Ole Spata/DPA/Landov 

Industry stakeholders don't seem that impressed, accusing the company of "greenwashing."

Google and the music industry have been engaged in a war of words for a quarter-year now, and neither side has taken one step back. That standoff has not abated even slightly with today's update of the company's "How Google Fights Piracy" report, an update to the company's 2014 edition which has ballooned from 26 to 62 pages in the interim. (Yes, "$3 billion paid to the music industry since launch" makes an appearance.)

Most of that new space is in the form of rhetoric, clearly directed towards the music industry (winkily writing "our partners in the music industry" at one point), and to that end spends of lot of time on Content ID. It says Content ID has generated, through the monetization of user-uploaded videos, $2 billion to rights holders -- double the dollar amount reported in its last edition -- since its debut.

The company writes that "well over 90 percent of all Content ID claims across the platform result in monetization" and that the industry "chooses to monetize more than 95 percent of their claims on the platform. It writes that Content ID is responsible for 50 percent of revenue generated for the music industry on YouTube, and that over 99 percent of copyright claims on music are handled via Content ID.

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Revenues from YouTube towards the music business increased 15 percent in 2015, according to research released yesterday by analyst Mark Mulligan -- after consumption of music content on the site jumped 132 percent in the same period. The relatively paltry revenue growth was pegged to a downturn in advertising value.

Music stakeholders counter that its returns from the platform are untenable, and that YouTube draws ears and eyes away from subscription services like Spotify, which pay a much higher return for access to the same music. YouTube counters that it is monetizing people who would (or could) never in a million years pay for Spotify or Apple Music or Tidal, stressing the "found money" of a "value shift."

Frances Moore, CEO of the global recording industry trade body IFPI is unmoved. "Member record companies' experience demonstrates that Google's Content ID tool is ineffective in preventing infringing content appearing on YouTube," the executive wrote today in response to the report. "Record companies and publishers estimate that Content ID fails to identify 20-40 percent of their recordings."

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Of course, Google also has a popular web search business -- which has to balance (just as YouTube does) combating infringement against illiegitimate complaints, such as requests for negative film reviews to be de-listed from search results. "While Google doesn't want to include links to infringing pages in our search results, we need the help of copyright owners to separate the authorized or unobjectionable uses from infringing ones." Download piracy has taken a back seat in priority to streaming for the industry, but is hardly being ignored.

Geoff Taylor, CEO of the U.K. major label trade body BPI, calls the report "a lot like 'greenwash,'" writing that Google "is still one of the key enablers of piracy on the planet. Google has the resources and the tech expertise to do much more to get rid of the illegal content on its services."