It seems like the content industry has managed to score another hit in its ‘fight’ against piracy, and this time, it’s a big fish. Announced a few weeks ago already, Google has started censoring its auto-complete and instant features for an arbitrary set of search terms – such as ‘bittorrent’, ‘torrent’, ‘rapidshare’, and any terms derived from those (e.g. ‘ubuntu torrent’ is censored as well).
This move was announced early last month, and comes as part of a wider set of measures to make copyright ‘work better’ online. The problem here is, of course, that there is nothing illegal about bittorrent, RapidShare, and most of the other terms currently censored. This leads to the crazy situation where completely legal and valid search terms will no longer be able to benefit from Autocomplete and Instant.
BitTorrent., Inc. is a completely legal company, and the technology around it is also completely legal. Yet, any search term containing these terms will no longer be autocompleted, including things like ‘Ubuntu torrent’. People who want to learn about this legal technology through Google are now at a disadvantage.
Several BitTorrent clients, some run by legal companies, are also being censored. Not all popular clients are being censored, however, nor are the large BitTorrent sites like The Pirate Bay or my personal favourite Torrentz.com (.eu now). Similarly, RapidShare and Megaupload are censored; however, 4shared, HotFile and MediaFire are not. It’s all incredibly arbitrary.
These actions are desired by the content industry, who have been pressuring Google into measures like this for a while now. The measures are incredibly sweeping; The Netherlands, and I’m sure several other European countries, are censored as well, even though downloading is perfectly legal in The Netherlands and many other European countries.
For now, actual search results are not blocked, but this is of course a slippery slope. The content industry – a failing industry with not a single grain of innovation in them – have smelled blood, and now that Google has caved to their pressure, they’ll surely press on. The next step is removing the search results altogether.
Once again, it would seem that the content industry gets special treatment just because… Well, I still haven’t figured that one out yet. While other failing business and industries that are outdated or fail to deliver what customers want will have to face the wrath of the market, the content industry has its own personal little set of laws to wave around and make everyone to their bidding – so they won’t have to actually do any innovating themselves. Then, when they get caught with their pants down because a few nerds create the world’s most advanced and flexible content distribution system, they fight it – instead of adopting it.
It’s like the inventor of the wireless blowjob dispenser being sued into oblivion by the union of pimps.
And they even get support from people along the way. However, when you ask these people if we should have enacted laws to protect the makers of film-based cameras and the film they use, they will find it ridiculous.
I’m disappointed in Google. If they want to enact censorship in the US – be my guest. However, the fact they’re trying to censor completely legal activities here in The Netherlands is something I’m not particularly excited about. While this step in and of itself worries me not, it is the next step that has me concerned.