Microsoft's piracy problem: Lock, stock and two Googley barrels

Microsoft's piracy problem: Lock, stock and two Googley barrels

Summary: If you thought TV, movie and music studios were the most likely candidates to have asked Google to remove pirated and copyright-infringing content, think again.

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TOPICS: Google
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Amid a wave of legislative measures that came close to to crushing online file-sharers backed by copyright owners and entertainment companies, it would likely come as little surprise to see music, film and television studios featuring on the high-end of the list of those issuing takedown requests to search engines like Google.

But of all companies, Microsoft hit the number one spot of all companies asking Google to remove search results that could be used to download its products and software illegally.

Ergo, Microsoft does more to 'censor' the Web than most copyright holders put together.

Each year, Google releases a transparency report in efforts to open the doors to how the complex, dominant market figure conducts business. While government takedown requests have been noted in its annual reports, this year's report is the first time copyright-related notices have figured into the equation.

Microsoft stood at the top of the copyright owners' list by nearly five-times compared to the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), NBC Universal, and the RIAA. The vast majority of sites targeted with file-sharing sites, link- or Magnet-link sharing sites such as The Pirate Bay, or file search engines that index known pirate sites for content, like FilesTube.

Google said there were more than 2.5 million takedown requests from Microsoft where it believed others' were violating its copyright.

Microsoft has suffered at the hands of pirates. With more than 90 percent of all PCs running Windows, and around 95 percent of the market using Office, Microsoft has set itself up to be a major target for illegal file-sharers.

Once was the emerging markets that sold pirate copies of physical Windows and Office media, the battle has slowly infiltrated the West through search results and file-sharing sites, for consumers simply unwilling to pay.

While films, television shows, music and other content will continue to be shared illegally, the content has to be viewed on something, leaving operating systems to be one of the most pirated bits of software on the Web.

Microsoft can only do so much in the global piracy battle. While the software giant continues to patch its software and add increasingly difficult mechanisms to fool file-sharers, Microsoft is often the one sent back with a bloody nose and licking its wounds after the pirates find yet another way to circumvent the security measures.

But nowadays the greatest weapon a downloader of illegally shared software is search. Microsoft can only ask Google to remove a search result because it's often all it can do in the fight-back challenge.

On an interesting note, Google said it took an average of 11 hours to respond to requests by companies to remove content --- sometimes faster, sometimes slower --- but warned that the takedown tool was often used for "abusive removal requests".

The company explained:

"For example, we recently rejected two requests from an organization representing a major entertainment company, asking us to remove a search result that linked to a major newspaper’s review of a TV show.

The requests mistakenly claimed copyright violations of the show, even though there was no infringing content. We’ve also seen baseless copyright removal requests being used for anticompetitive purposes, or to remove content unfavorable to a particular person or company from our search results."

Image credit: Google.

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Topic: Google

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46 comments
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  • Not sure it's fair to characterize this as "censoring" the web

    Assuming most of these were legitimate requests to block software download, this can only be characterized as censorship if you believe distributing licensed software illegally is free speech. I'm very much a fan of FOSS free-as-in-speech, but even someone like me doesn't take it THAT far.

    That said - it would be interesting to know just how much of Microsoft's dominance on the desktop is due to the halo effect (ironic term for it in this context) from illegal/gray software downloading.
    daboochmeister
    • Censorship is the removal of information

      Note that Google doesn't store and share the software, filesharing sites do. Google search just provides information (the link) to the filesharing site. They also provide links to things other than files (reviews, comments and opinions, help info, etc.) that also gets "censored" when links are removed.

      I don't condone stealing Microsoft's products, but the Web would still be stuck where it was in 1990 without Google and its ubiquitous search ability. I think it was John Battelle who said that the Web would be less than a [b]thousandth[/b] of the size it is today without Google, and I firmly believe it. While the power of Google *can* be used for evil, its overall benefit to the Web and the world at large is incalculable.
      terry flores
      • I agree

        M$ wants do damage google results and reputation.
        The Linux Geek
      • To damage Google's reputation?

        Why? They do that fine on their own.
        William Farrel
      • I don't agree

        @The Linux Geek

        I'm pretty sure Bing results are also filtered in a similar fashion, with MS software download sites removed as well as RIAA and friends removal requests.

        So it doesn't affect only Google. Those removal requests are sent to all significant search engines, not only Google.
        lepoete73
      • @Linux Geek

        Tell me how Microsoft is "damaging Google's reputation" by asking that Google remove links to pirated Microsoft software?
        NonFanboy
      • NonFan Boy the fanboy double standard

        Gee, weren't you all over the place on the "Former student ordered to pay $675,000 for sharing 30 songs" blog?

        But when it's Microsoft doing the takedowns, all of a sudden you kiss ass.
        ScorpioBlack
      • @lepoete73, @NonFanboy

        It turns out that Bing is often still showing many of the same results that Microsoft asked Google to remove. There's a Wired article from Friday about this. A cynic would surmise that this is a ploy to for Bing to gain market share. If not that, then perhaps it's just that Bing does not have that ability to take down copyright infringements in a timely matter.
        K B
    • A lot of downloading of M$ stuff is necessary by design...

      Let me explain: Often, people have a valid license for software, but not the installer to reinstall the software. If it weren't for the people sharing software via bitorrent, there would be a lot of hardship for the consumers.

      I repair computers. I get a lot of computers that have a dead hard drive and do not have the OS install disk. In the case of Windows XP, a license key for XP SP0 will not work with a retail install disk, or an OEM disk SP1, 2, or 3, or media center and Tablet editions, (original and 2005.) The exact correct disk is needed to reinstall. No matter how I try to hoard backup install disks, I frequently do not have the correct install disk to go with a person's valid license key. I have to find a copy via bitorrent and download it, burn it to disk, and then proceed to give people their once again working computer back.

      M$ charges $69.99 to get one out of that jam. Nice guys...

      The same thing happens with other M$ products, but not nearly as often. Without bitorrent, a lot of people would not have been able to use the computer and OS license they legally own.
      mlashinsky@...
      • RE: ...not have been able to use the computer and OS license....

        IF you are speaking of an OEM install, you seem to 'forget" one important thing - you can not transfer that license to another computer.

        You see, in Micro$oft'$ eyes, (and hopefully for the benefit of their hardware partners;) when [b]any part[/b] of a computer with an OEM install dies, the license [i]also dies[/i]. How else do you expect their hardware partners to stay in business??? One hand must wash the other. It does not matter if you replace a dead computer with another from the same manufacturer, or one of its competitors; you have expended unnecessary $$$ on a new computer. It does not matter that you could easily resurrect a computer with a dead hard drive by dropping $50 to $100 for another drive; you [b]are expected to buy a new computer[/b]. Haven't you heard of planned obsolescence?????

        Stop trying to do the right thing for your customers, and help insure the expansion of the bottom lines of Micro$oft and its hardware partners. Those old machines need to go away.

        </sarcasm&gt
        </satire&gt
        fatman65536
  • Piracy and Microsoft pricing

    $299 for Windows 7. Then the company complains people pirate it. $299 is a car payment, a console gaming system, an entire year's worth of HOA fees, an entire budget PC, your kid's dental visit, a month's worth of food.

    And don't come back with that $99 hamstrung piece of operating system with half its features removed. The only real Windows 7 is Professional/Enterprise/Ultimate level, with everything enabled.

    Look at the DVD market, it flourishes because DVDs are insanely cheap now. The music industry still thinks that people will cough up $15 for an audio disc, while you can get movies for $5-7. Its all about price points.
    johnsmith9875
    • ....

      are you being serious? The DVD market flourishes? Everyone i know that knows how to use a computer downloads films illegally, MS can charge whatever they want for THEIR software, if you don't want to pay what they think it is worth, use linux.
      danjames2012
      • Linux

        I do that. I have one MS box, to run AutoCAD, for everything else I use Linux.

        Still, I am limited to custom computer builds if I don't want to pay for a Microsoft license that I will just throw away.
        Tsingi
      • Tsingi, is that true? Why did the OEM's single you out?

        They all sell Linux based, or no OS systems, so why are you forced to buy a Windows license?

        Are you talking about the retailers like Best Buy and what not? It's not their responsibility to stock an OS free computer that won't sell, anymore then me complaining that if I buy a Chevy, I'm forced to but it with a Chevy Engine.

        So if you're not allowed, while everyone else is allowed, to buy a Linux or OS free computer, I would call a lawyer, and local law enforcement, as you're being discriminated against!
        William Farrel
      • Slick Wilie and his skewered rationalization

        [i]Are you talking about the retailers like Best Buy and what not? It's not their responsibility to stock an OS free computer that won't sell, anymore then me complaining that if I buy a Chevy, I'm forced to but it with a Chevy Engine.[/i]

        But the OEMs are not Microsoft and the OEMs don't build the operating system. They are technically supposed to be OS agnostic, but we all know that's a load of crap.

        I realize you're too dense to understand the concept. That's why it needs to be repeated to you all the time.
        ScorpioBlack
    • You don't have to pay that price...

      Microsoft does offer various discounts. I paid $180 for my legal copy of Windows 7 Ulitimate, OEM version.
      DonRupertBitByte
      • OEM versions

        It's my understanding, OEM versions of Windows are pretty much useless if one's computer tanks. That makes windows a bunch more expensive.
        tbanks204
      • @ tbanks204

        Huh?
        whatagenda
    • The DVD market is subsidized by Movie theater revenue

      Windows isn't. Car paymenst are $299 [b]every month[/b] vs once (I've never been charged a monthly fee for Windows) for software.

      But those items you're selling at your next yard sale? Too pricey, So I'll just steal them off you then.
      William Farrel
      • The DVD market is subsidized by taxpayers

        ...who in turn are lobbied through their government by Hollywood.

        [i]Windows isn't. Car paymenst are $299 every month vs once (I've never been charged a monthly fee for Windows) for software.[/i]

        Not yet.

        [i]But those items you're selling at your next yard sale? Too pricey, So I'll just steal them off you then. [/i]

        You just do that, k? ;)
        ScorpioBlack