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Friday, August 10, 2012

Google praised for move to penalize sites hosting pirated content

Google has changed its search algorithm to downplay sites that have been flagged as potentially containing pirated content. (Torsten Silz / Associated Press)
Hollywood and other content owners, whose relationship with Google is fitful at best, gave the Silicon Valley search company rare praise Friday for its move to penalize websites that have been flagged by copyright holders for potentially hosting pirated entertainment.

In a blog post on the company's website, Google explained the changes it had made to its search algorithm, which determines what results it provides to people using its search engine.

"Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site," wrote Amit Singhal, Google's senior vice president of engineering. "Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily -- whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify."

Singhal noted that Google is deluged with notices from copyright holders such as music labels and movie studios alerting them to sites that have potentially trafficked in pirated content. In the last 30 days, it processed requests to 4.3 million links to such websites, he said, more than the company received in all of 2009.

Groups representing the movie and music companies were quick to laud Google for the move. The Recording Industry Assn. of America in a statement said: "This change is an important step in the right direction – a step we’ve been urging Google to take for a long time – and we commend the company for its action."

The Motion Picture Assn. of America, which had been sharply at odds with Google over its efforts to block anti-piracy legislation, was also complimentary, though far more guarded, with its comment.
"We are optimistic that Google’s actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe," said Michael O’Leary, MPAA's Senior Executive Vice President for Global Policy and External Affairs. "We will be watching this development closely – the devil is always in the details – and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves."

Google over the years has struggled to balance what it regards as a need for an open and unrestricted Internet with pressure from content holders to censure sites that promote piracy. Friday's move, while welcomed by movie studios and music labels, displeased advocates of the free Internet camp.
John Bergmeyer, senior staff attorney for Public Knowledge, expressed concern that Google's changes could unintentionally penalize sites that are innocent of copyright violations. Such sites could include services that let users upload and share content, such as Google's own YouTube or Yahoo's Flickr. While users may violate copyrights by uploading, say, a Lady Gaga album, the sites themselves may be perfectly within the law if they have certain measures in place to flag and remove the album.

"If Google's new policy helps users find legitimate sources of content, protects the valid interests of copyright holders, and doesn't penalize lawful sites, then it's a win all around," he wrote. "But any new system such as this has potential dangers and unintended consequences, and can be abused."

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‘People Will Die’ If Romney’s Elected

gty jonathan alter mr 120810 wblog Jonathan Alter: People Will Die If Romneys Elected
Image credit: D Dipasupil/Getty Images

Now criticism is coming from the center

Forget seeking to tie Mitt Romney’s past with one woman’s death from cancer – a charge that lacks much evidence.

A political pundit and journalist took a great leap further when he said Thursday that a Romney presidency would cost people with preexisting conditions and those out of work their lives.

On MSNBC Thursday night, Jonathan Alter spoke out against the repeal of Obamacare.

“People will die in the United States if Obamacare is repealed,” Alter said on air last night. “That is not an exaggeration. That is not crying fire. It’s a simple fact.”

Alter then went on to claim that, since Romney has said he would repeal Obamacare on his “first day” in office if elected in November, “a lot of people will die” if the Republican is elected to the presidency – putting the responsibility for these individuals’ deaths squarely on Romney’s shoulders.

“They don’t need to embrace this ad and get into a big fight about whether they were calling Mitt Romney a murderer or whatever,” Alter said, referring to the controversy surrounding the Priorities USA spot. “They need to move on to a debate about the main issue, which is Obamacare. And they can bring death into the conversation and say, ‘No, we’re not calling Mitt Romney a murderer, what we are saying is that if he’s elected president, a lot of people will die.’ Those are two slightly different, but related issues,” Alter said.

Romney has recently lightened the tone of his anti-Obamacare message, saying that he would embrace health care reform, particularly coverage for those with pre-existing conditions, as president.

Read more about that here.

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Osmo's Communication Maxims

If a communication can fail, it will.

If a message can be understood in different ways, it will be understood in just that way which does the most harm.

There is always somebody other then you who knows more about what you meant in a message than you do.

The more communication there is the more difficult it is for that communication to succeed.

-Osmo Wiio, Communication Scholar