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Google plays the filesharing card

High stakes poker
Thu May 06 2010, 13:10

PIRATE BAY AND ITS ILK could soon benefit from a Google legal challenge to the music and film industries' claims that search engines help promote 'piracy'.

According to the Associated Press, Google has asked a California judge to declare that by linking to copyright infringing works on Rapidshare, the search giant is not facilitating the illegal distribution of copyrighted songs.

If Google wins, not only will the content industries have to leave it alone, but there might be a few problems for some of the actions against filesharing sites. Pirate Bay and the like have long argued that they were like Google and only provided links to torrent files. If they changed their sites to emphasise the similarities then it would be impossible for the movie and film industries to take them down.

This California legal challenge was sparked by Blue Destiny Records, a small blues-oriented music label, suing Google, Microsoft and Rapidshare in Florida last year. Blue Destiny claimed at the time that Rapidshare was running "a distribution center for unlawful copies of copyrighted works" and that the Google's and Microsoft's search engines were helping to prop up the company. The label argued that users can easily find copyrighted songs on file-hosting websites by doing a simple search query.

It was supposed to be the big clincher about whether search engines could be found guilty of contributory copyright infringement. But in late March, Blue Destiny voluntarily withdrew its lawsuit. Google then asked the company to waive the right to pursue its copyright infringement allegations. According to Google, the label refused, preserving its legal options. So now Google is going back to court asking for a declaratory judgement that it is not promoting the infringement of Blue Destiny's copyrights.

A ruling in Google's favour on this is what the big content industries dreaded, which is why they have never moved to sue the search outfit. However if Google loses it could find itself in trouble and be forced to make serious changes to its search operations. µ



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