For years, file sharers have wondered why copyright owners don't go after Google, when the search engine is as effective at finding pirated film and music content as The Pirate Bay or any other BitTorrent search engine.
It seems as if someone at the British Phonographic Industry must have wondered about that too, as the trade group for the music industry in Great Britain has requested that Google remove links to some popular file-sharing sites, including Megaupload, 4shared.com, Zippyshare, and MediaFire.
"We have identified the following links that are available via Google's search engine," the BPI wrote to Google in a June 11 letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse. "[BPI leaders] request the following links be removed as soon as possible, as they directly link to sound recordings owned by our members."
There appears to be few, if any, recent requests made by a large copyright owner for Google to remove links to accused pirate sites. Last October, Google pulled a link to The Pirate Bay, one of the most famous of the BitTorrent search engines, but Mountain View, Ca.-based Google quickly returned the link to its search pages and said the move was a mistake.
The decision by BPI may not be supported completely by all four of the largest recording companies, music industry sources said. Last week, CNET reported that Google is working on a Web music store that could feature downloads and streaming music, and launch possibly as early as this fall. The fear of some at the top labels is that BPI could hinder Google's music operations in that country, a high-level music industry source said. The four largest record companies have long wanted Google to take on Apple's iTunes, and they are unlikely to want BPI to get in the way.
Representatives from Google did not respond to an interview request.
Adam Liversage, a spokesman for BPI, said the trade group asks Google to remove links to copyrighted content frequently. "In most cases, Google takes down the links in question, following its own internal procedures."
But Liversage did not respond to questions about its request for Google to remove links to sites. The BPI is similar to the Recording Industry Association of America but not exactly the same. Unlike the RIAA, which represents only the top labels, BPI represents hundreds of independent labels, as well as the big record companies.
BPI leaders may feel that they pack the kind of clout now to go after a colossus like Google. Two months ago, the United Kingdom's House of Commons overwhelmingly voted in favor of creating a so-called three-strikes law. This would enable copyright owners to seek the suspension of Internet service of those repeatedly accused of illegal file sharing.