Can Hollywood get Google to support new anti-piracy bill?

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Can Hollywood get Google to support new anti-piracy bill?

Fri Oct 01, 2010 @ 11:45AM PST

By Eriq Gardner

Googleh Last week, the Senate Judiciary Committee introduced a new anti-piracy bill that would enable the government to essentially blacklist websites accused of copyright theft. Since then, many in Hollywood have voiced strong support of the measure. Of all the arguments made in favor of passing the legislation, this is the one we find most eyebrow-raising:

The law would save Google from being stuck between a rock and a hard pace.

That's the argument made yesterday in a blog post on the website of the Copyright Alliance, whose membership includes some of the largest copyright stakeholders in the debate. In case any reporter missed the interesting argument, the MPAA then sent out a link to the post in an e-mail blast. Many in the tech community understandably loathe the proposed legislation, so by what counterintuitive logic, would a law like COICA potentially benefit Google?

Patrick Ross at the Copyright Alliance stabs at an answer in his blog post, which begins by putting some blame on Google for the proliferation of piracy. Advertisements lend pirate websites legitimacy, says Ross. So he addresses the search engine giant:

"So I ask Google, why is it so hard to make the decision not to enter into business partnerships with sites whose business model is obvious infringement of the works of U.S. creators? Why do you continue to place ads on these sites, participating in a duping of consumers into thinking they are following the law when instead they are helping to fund international criminal ventures?"

Pretty tough words. One might wonder why Hollywood hasn't launched a full-frontal legal attack yet on Google for providing advertising support for these websites.

Well, maybe it's only a matter of time. As we first reported in late August, Warner Bros. and Disney tag-teamed together to file an interesting lawsuit against Triton Media. The two studios accused the defendant of contributory copyright infringement by providing advertising support for nine websites identified as "one-stop shops" for infringing works. 

Why Triton? A bit of legal brinksmanship, perhaps? Attack a less well-heeled company like Triton instead of Google. Get good case law on the books. Then, swing around to big players like Google later.

In Ross' post, he addresses why Google doesn't do more to avoid placing ads on pirate websites. According to Copyright Alliance, Google has told others who have complained that it can't make the decision as to which sites are illegal or not. Apparently, it would open up too much liability for them.

So in Ross' view, the legislation would benefit Google. It "would remove the burden from third-party supporters of these pirate sites from having to decide if they truly are businesses built on willful infringement," he writes.

Maybe, although it remains to be seen how proactive the Department of Justice would be in ordering Google and others to stay away from a blacklisted website. In the meantime, the post -- and the MPAA's emphasis on this post -- raises another issue: Will Google really support the new anti-piracy bill? What if they don't?

Hmm. There seems to be some sort of veiled warning in all of this.

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The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter, Esq. blog focuses on how the entertainment and media industries are impacted and influenced by the law. It is edited by Matthew Belloni with contributions from veteran legal reporter Eriq Gardner and others. Before joining The Hollywood Reporter, Belloni was a lawyer at an entertainment litigation firm in Los Angeles. He writes a column for THR devoted to entertainment law. Gardner is a New York-based writer and legal journalist. Send tips or comments to [email protected]

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