Advocacy group cites top 50 pirated films, TV shows

Postings of pirated movies are being publicized by watchdog group to "shame" Google and highlight extent of problem.
Written by Reuters/Hollywood Reporter, Contributor
The nearly $70 million Weinstein Co. action film The Last Legion hits U.S. theaters in late August, but it was available for free Tuesday on Google Video.

Warner Bros. Pictures' Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, 20th Century Fox's Live Free or Die Hard and the previously leaked Weinstein Co./Lionsgate Films Michael Moore documentary Sicko also were found on the site by the National Legal and Policy Center, a Washington-based advocacy group that recently set up a top-50 chart of pirated films and TV series.

Phoenix and Die Hard were spotted Monday by NLPC, which searches with title keywords on Google Video's search engine and via Google's blog search. The latter finds sites where bloggers post information about uploaded videos which, as was the case with Legion, might not include its title.

NLPC chairman Ken Boehm said that it's publicizing the piracy to "shame" the search engine. "Google says its responsibility is to take down any pirated material only when it is brought to its attention by the copyright owner (as mandated) under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act," he said.

"Critics argue that since Google is a highly profitable company and the most advanced search technology company, it could easily do a much better job at filtering out copyrighted material, citing the fact that Google has always been able to do a good job at blocking such things as pornography, beheadings, etc. They also argue that Google will selectively block unauthorized posting of copyrighted videos with companies it makes business deals with."

Not bulletproof
Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said the company "will cooperate with copyright holders to identify and promptly remove any infringing content (and) continue to take the lead in providing state-of-the-art DMCA tools and processes," but he added that no system is bulletproof, and that issues of policing site content are not cut and dry.

"Copyright status can only be determined by the copyright holder, and their preferences vary widely," Stricker said. "Some legal departments take down a video one day and the marketing department puts it up the next. Which is their right, but our community can't predict those things, and neither can we. No matter how good our video identification technology gets, it will never be able to read copyright holders' minds."

Despite widely publicized illegal appearances on Google Video and YouTube weeks before its release, Sicko was uploaded on the site Monday and again Tuesday, according to NLPC. A group spokesperson said the documentary had been viewed more than 90,000 times, but not all of its information is reliable. The NLPC claimed the musical remake of Hairspray (due in theaters Friday) was online, but the screenshot it provided was taken from the original 1988 John Waters film.

A somewhat pixelated widescreen version of Legion was available on Google Video on Tuesday. On a T1 Internet connection, the film (available in two parts) appeared to come from a DVD screener or print and not a camcorder. One possible source of the bootleg might have been Russia, where the film has grossed $3.3 million since its April release. Legion was removed shortly after The Hollywood Reporter notified the Weinstein Co. about its Tuesday upload.

"We are outraged by illegal piracy," a Weinstein Co. spokeswoman said. "Protecting our product and the artists involved is of the highest priority. We are working with the preeminent security companies in the business, and they are using the latest technology available to combat this industrywide problem."

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