Copyright and The Internet

Google has announced they have made a change to their algorithms to include valid DMCA takedown requests as a negative signal in their search results. I believe this is a step in the right direction and I am pleased to see Google do this.

It's hard to argue that the Internet can regulate itself when content owners point to Google search results that show blatant copyright violators on the first page and fully licensed services buried four pages down. So Google is addressing that. That's a good thing.

But I think we can do more. In the world of spam and malware, there are third party services that provide whitelists and blacklists that are used by various services and platforms to help them keep their services clean. I would like to see this approach extended to copyright.

It would be best if a competitive marketplace developed for copyright whitelists and blacklists. The list providers would use signals like number of valid takedown notices and a host of other data points, ideally provided by the marketplace of services and platforms, to produce real time lists of what services are fully compliant (whitelist), what services are blatantly violating copyright (blacklist), and everyone else (greylist).

Being on the greylist would not hamper a new service from entering the market. All new services built by three engineers in a loft would start out on the greylists. But over time they could get onto the whitelists by properly respecting copyright in their service. Whitelisted content services would benefit in the same way that whitelisted services benefit in the word of email.

Google effectively runs their own whitelists and blacklists in their email business and in their search business. But if there were truly independent and competitive providers of whitelists and blacklists for copyright, the entire market could do this sort of thing. And ideally Google would participate by providing data to these third parties and using the third party lists in their algorithms.

When I think about solving thorny problems like copyright, I like to look at how the Internet has solved similar problems and think about how these approaches can be extended to solve new problems. Whitelists and blacklists have been very effective in areas like spam and malware and I think they would be a great approach to address the copyright issues as long as they are built and managed by independent competitive third parties.