Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Southern California politicos join MPAA fight over online piracy

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The head of the motion picture industry was on Capitol Hill Wednesday touting a new study that shows the role search engines play in directing online users to sites that post pirated movies and TV shows. Lawmakers representing movie and TV workers want more cooperation from Google and other search engines.

The Motion Picture Association of America collected data on how consumers find pirated movies and TV programs online. The MPAA study shows that between 2010 and 2012, search engines were responsible for 20% of traffic to illegal sites. That may not sound like much, but that’s four billion site visits a year to watch bootleg films and TV shows.

Democratic Congresswoman Judy Chu -- co-chair of the House Creative Rights Caucus -- says piracy costs more than $16 billion a year  and 141,000 jobs, creating real consequences for her district.  She says her San Gabriel Valley district isn't home to superstars -- "the people that make the megabucks." She says it does have the people who work behind the scenes, "such as set designers, makeup artists and lighting technicians." 

MPAA Chair and former U.S. Senator Chris Dodd says search engines are a “major gateway” to initial discovery of pirated content online. The study found that even when a consumer wasn’t looking for pirated content, three out of four say the search engines sent them to such sites.

Burbank Democrat Adam Schiff, co-chair of the House International Anti-piracy Caucus, says lawmakers are asking for voluntary cooperation from search engines, helping consumers find legal outlets to watch TV shows and films. "By supporting legitimate sites rather than illegal ones, everybody wins."

Google voluntarily changed its algorithm last summer to take into account the number of times a site has received a notice to remove content because of copyright infringement. The MPAA study says the action made no difference.  

Google did not respond to a request for comment. 


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