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Music industry considers lawsuit against Google over piracy search results

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Music industry interest groups, including the Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), are privately considering an anti-trust lawsuit against Google, according to an internal document obtained by Handelszeitung and TorrentFreak. While Google has worked with the music industry over the past year, these organizations do not believe the search giant is doing enough to stop sending traffic to piracy sites, like The Pirate Bay.

According to Handelszeitung, the IFPI’s legal team, along with the RIAA, are continuing to negotiate with Google “to obtain better anti-privacy cooperation in various areas.” Specifically, Google has provided these groups with a special search tool that allows them flag allegedly infringing sites en masse. Between August and December of last year, IFPI found a total of 460,000 allegedly infringing sites, which included blogs on the Google-owned Blogger network. Hundreds of such blogs were reportedly shut down at the request of IFPI. In total, Google says it removed 5 million copyright infringing links from its search results.

Despite Google’s willingness to cooperate, IFPI wants more to be done. Specifically, it wants Google to rank “legal” music sites higher than sites that engage in copyright infringement..

“Google continues to fail to prioritize legal music sites over illegal sites in search results, claiming that its algorithm for search results is based on the relevance of sites to consumers,” reads the document.

It continues: “With a view to addressing this failure, IFPI obtained a highly confidential and preliminary legal opinion in July 2011 on the possibility of bringing a competition law complaint against Google for abuse of its dominant position, given the distortion of the market for legitimate online music that is likely to result from Google’s prioritizing of illegal sites.”

This stance — that legal music sites should outrank illegal sites — is something the industry has pushed for repeatedly.

For those of you who payed close attention to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), you’ll remember that the legislation sought to require Google and other search engines to strip allegedly infringing sites from its search results. With SOPA currently off the table, the RIAA and IFPI last month released a “Voluntary Code of Practice” for search engines, asking them to do exactly that by their own accord.

Because Google is such an omnipresent gateway to much of the Web’s content, it’s no surprise that the music industry sees the company as a major obstacle in its crusade to rid the Web of file-sharing. And, obviously, Google is doing its best to not be seen as more of a threat than it already is. But if a lawsuit does come forth, the decision will have wide implications for the balance of power in this everlasting battle over intellectual property regulations.