Google search: convenience at a cost

Google search is a convenient and widely used source of information. However, it also provides an easy way to pirate different digital entertainment, such as music, movies and books.

The search engine places all the Internet’s information, including pirated material, in the hands of anyone who has access to Wi-fi, encouraging and facilitating the often lucrative piracy industry. Many users believe that it is Google’s duty to prevent pirated forms of media from spreading throughout the web.

“Since Google is the number one search engine in the world, it will obviously assist in piracy, as many people use this powerful tool to search popular sites and access illegitimate sources,” Junior Gabriel Quach said.

In Oct., Google announced that it would start making a larger effort to fight piracy, agreeing that illegal downloading websites must be “demoted” in search results—any illegitimate sites will be moved to the bottom of the page. They will also promote legal websites such as Amazon and Spotify by placing them in a box at the top of the search results.

However, there is a slight catch: if legal websites want to appear in this box, they will have to pay an advertisement fee. In its report, Google stressed that the best way to combat piracy is to create more legitimate websites, for piracy tends to spike when legal websites are in low supply.

The Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) found that 58% of Google searches for television shows and movies intend to find legitimate content, but Google presents pirated forms nonetheless. This even occurs when users look up the title of a movie without suggesting that they want illegally-pirated material–links connecting to pirated material automatically show up in the search results, attracting searchers and prompting them to access this content.

The television, music and movie communities especially criticize Google for failing to omit pirated material from search results. They claim that as gatekeepers of the web, search engines should play a constructive role in denying access to pirated content.

Google has often argued that a search engine cannot be held responsible for what users do with pirated material—it is simply a tool that answers a search query using the data that it holds. However, as the MPAA stated, search engines such as Google are guilty of providing audiences with pirated material even when they are not actively looking to find illegally downloaded content.

The MPAA also called Google’s anti-piracy methods useless. The organization wrote that Google’s plan to demote the search ranking of piracy-supporting sites actually calls attention to those sites instead of hiding them, since consumers know where to find them all.

“Google directs users to a lot of sites where they can download or listen to free, pirated music, and they do a poor job of hiding these illegitimate sources,” Sophomore Hannah Cai said.