Google pledges improvement in copyright protection

Steps to be taken in coming months include a speedier process to remove pirated content from its sites and services

Often accused of being lax about copyright protection in its online services, Google is pledging to sharpen its anti-piracy policies and procedures.

In the coming months, Google expects to act more quickly on take-down notices for copyright-infringing content posted to its sites and services, such as Blogger, responding in under 24 hours to legitimate requests.

Google is also working on removing piracy-related suggestions from its search query auto-complete feature that people often use to seek illegal copies of copyright material.

The AdSense program, which lets external sites carry Google-distributed ads and earn commissions, will be more aggressively patrolled to identify and kick out participants that publish copyright-infringing content.

Finally, Google is trying to increase the visibility and prominence of authorized content in its search engine results. "We'll be looking at ways to make this content easier to index and find," wrote Kent Walker, Google general counsel, in a blog post.

Throughout its history, Google has been consistently criticized for what detractors consider a much too casual attitude toward copyright protection.

Over the years, the company has been dragged to court in the U.S. and abroad over copyright and patent infringement claims related to a variety of its services.

Plaintiffs have included business owners objecting to the unauthorized use of their brand names as ad-triggering keywords in AdWords; publishers angry at Google's wholesale digitizing of their books without permission for its Books search engine; magazines, wire services and newspapers upset at the indexing and display of article headlines and text portions in Google News; and, of course, video producers aghast at the uploading and broadcasting of portions of their TV programs and movies in YouTube.

While Google has won some and lost some of the copyright-related legal fights, with a number still ongoing, the company has in recent years made a more deliberate effort to address the issue and improve its detection mechanisms.

For example, its ContentID technology, which automates detection of copyright video on YouTube, seems to have gone a long way towards calming the concerns of professional producers, and helped the company secure a favorable ruling in the $1 billion lawsuit Viacom filed against it. Viacom intends to pursue the fight on appeal.

Likewise, Google struck a wide-ranging settlement proposal with book publishers over their challenge to the Books digitizing project. That proposal, which some prominent publishers have opted out of, is awaiting court approval.

Google has also shown willingness to strike licensing deals with some content providers, instead of simply crawling and indexing their sites unilaterally. A prominent example of this is the recently renewed deal with the Associated Press that lets Google publish full-text articles from the wire service on Google News.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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