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Search engines not seen as a major player in music piracy, despite the RIAA's claims

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fbi anti-piracy seal (fbi)
fbi anti-piracy seal (fbi)

For years, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) has been harping on Google, saying the search giant makes it too easy for pirates to find and download music and media they haven't paid for. Despite continued pressure, there's some evidence that the RIAA continues to bark up the wrong tree — a new report from the nonprofit Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) claims removing "undesirable" search results would not substantially alter or prevent piracy. "The solutions to online infringement have little to do with search," the report goes on to state. The study found that copyright-infringing sites receive little traffic from search, and evidence supports the notion that search terms like "mp3" or "torrent" are infrequently used — instead, pirates search for broader terms like an artist's name, something harder to weed potentially illegal results out of.

"The solutions to online infringement have little to do with search."

According to a few Internet data sources cited by the CCIA, only 15 percent of traffic to so-called "rogue sites" came from search, and data from Alexa showed that only about eight percent of traffic to The Pirate Bay comes from search. Operators from The Pirate Bay confirmed, this, saying that "a very low amount of our traffic actually comes from search engines like Google." Further data was collected from Google's own Trends tool. When comparing the number of people searching for a specific artist or song title compared with those searched for that same artist or song with "mp3" or "downloaded" included, the latter was so low it was practically insignificant.

It's worth noting that the CCIA's report only looked at a few popular songs, including Rihanna's "Diamonds" and Ke$ha's "Die Young" — there's a chance more rare or less popular music could show different results. While the CCIA only analyzed a few songs, it did point out that it looked at the same ones cited by the RIAA in a recent report claiming that Google wasn't doing enough to stop piracy. As for how the RIAA might be able to make better use of search to combat piracy, the CCIA suggests that the organization work with lawful online music vendors like Spotify to increase their prominence in search results — if more people are aware of legal options, they may be less likely to resort to piracy.