Technology

The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

Google Torrent Search helps users pirate content

April 20, 2009 |  7:03 pm

Google-torrent
The search bar that sits atop the Google Torrent Search page.

Is Google hosting a piracy search engine?

That's the question that's been on the minds of Internet users today, when a link to a Google page called Torrent Search made the rounds.

Punching in the name of the latest record, movie or computer software instantly returns a Google search page that lists where to find bootlegged downloads using popular piracy websites.

While hosted on Google.com, the product doesn't appear to be the work of a Google employee. The search engine uses Google's Custom Search platform, which allows anyone to manufacture a page that can scan a defined set of sites. This one just happens to be limited to some of the most-used piracy portals.

But those who support piracy websites are pointing to the search page in defense of the four creators of the Pirate Bay. On Friday, they were sentenced to a year in jail and ...

... ordered to pay $3.6 million in damages to entertainment giants, whose products were hot commodities on the underground circuit.

While Paul McCartney publicly applauded the Swedish court's decision as "fair," supporters of Pirate Bay vehemently disagree.

Torrent Search, some say, shows that even the ubiquitous search engine could be held accountable for facilitating copyright violations. The same logic surfaced Friday in a Forbes article titled "Why Google Is the New Pirate Bay."

Of course, Google's search engine is used for a myriad of things unrelated to piracy. The same can't be said of Pirate Bay's endless treasure trove of bootlegged goodies.

There's also a technical argument that doesn't help the Pirate Bay's case. In addition to its internal search engine, the Pirate Bay is what's called a "torrent tracker" -- meaning the source of an illegal file points back to and resides on the website. Google is only a search engine -- one that, like all Web crawlers, is capable of digging up pirated content.

Google did not immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment. But the company appears to be actively removing illegal search listings based on claims filed by entertainment giants, including Twentieth Century Fox.

A torrent search for "wolverine," the new X-Men film starring Hugh Jackman, has the following blurb at the bottom of the page, noting that some pages have been omitted:

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaintthat caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 3 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaintthat caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.

That takes care of four versions of the pirated movie. But it doesn't account for more than 1,000others that show up in search results. Yeesh! To call the fight against piracy an uphill battle is an understatement.

-- Mark Milian

Comments 

Advertisement