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.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Matt A. Myers

    I watched “Embrace the Remix” earlier this morning; Not related to this topic but good nonetheless relating to how we all innovate –

    1. fredwilson

      i will check it out. thanks

      1. mikenolan99

        Another off topic post – (is the comments section on your blog the new email?) Have you heard of ? My son interviewed last week, and is very excited about it.

  2. Howard Greenstein

    Hi Fred. It’s early morning so I may be missing something but what economic incentive does Google have to share their black and white list data, or use other party data? I would think it would help violators reverse engineer too much secret sauce. Help me out.

    1. fredwilson

      no specific economic incentive but it would be good for the internet as a whole

  3. Jason Hirschhorn

    Very pleased to see this implemented. There will be missteps and mistakes. That should be expected. And Google needs to be as vigilant in fixing those so that the greater mission they propose here succeeds and evolves. Video is a tricky thing in this one. For example. if you loved the show “24”, that is only distributed a few places. If it’s not from one of those places it’s likely a pirated copy or one used innocently without permission. Can discretion scale? And a Pirate Bay is much different than a Tumblr to many. Also, what of YouTube in results? interesting take here:

  4. William Mougayar

    I think you nailed it by proposing whitelisting as a significant step for this. Currently, the casual user is in the dark & easily fooled by search results. Let’s hope that this new Google “signal” is not so subtle that it won’t get noticed. 

  5. Dan Thornton

    I actually disagree quite strongly with this move. Partly it’s because there’s a lot of evidence of the collateral damage of whitelists and blacklists, which can affect innocent parties in serious ways – sites which are seized despite having copyright approval, or legal content being caught up in sites which also host non-copyright material, such as in the MegaUpload case.In addition, there are certain sites which site outside the DMCA process. As Danny Sullivan pointed out first (I think), one of them is a video site called Youtube, which has it’s own process.The problems are with the existing laws over copyrights and patents, and while these laws are waiting to be reformed, any moves to enforce them more strongly are misguided at best. The only beneficiaries are companies which have enough budget to fund large legal initiatives and which now have another route to tackle any companies which may intentionally or accidentally infringe copyright law as they start out.A great example comes from some of my sites on videogaming. I don’t infringe copyright and only upload content that has either been created by myself, or has been supplied via game publisher press sites – yet often, content distributed via press sites is actually flagged as infringing copyright when it’s uploaded to Youtube etc, meaning I then have to take down and delete the videos. Which begs the question why the official source made them available in the first place, but also makes it much harder to build a tiny media company.

    1. fredwilson

      I think a competitive market of independent third parties can easily deal with all of your concerns

      1. Dan Thornton

        That’s OK then ;)What incentive does an independent third party have to not blacklist a small website which makes little profit and has no large publicity machine if it has a complaint from a large media company or rights holder with a large advertising/promotional/legal budget?

        1. fredwilson

          same incentive a email whitelist/blacklist service has

  6. kidmercury

    if this is a powerful signal in google’s search algorithm, there will be incentive to frame others for copyright violation. the more powerful the signal, the stronger the incentive. not saying google’s policy is wrong for that reason, simply observing.ultimately internet platforms will need to evolve beyond modifying their code based on nation-state rules towards developing and enforcing their policies. DMCA is a US law……so what happens to a web site in turkey hosting a piece of content copyrighted in the US that is downloaded by some guy in thailand? i believe each platform and enforce its own rules as we evolve beyond the nation-state and towards the new world order of governance by non-state networks.

    1. Dan Thornton

      The one good thing is that Google’s examples of the volume required for potential demotion is pretty high, so it’s more likely to be serious infringers, rather than small businesses and SEOs attempting negative tactics.But it does mean large media companies will still have huge force and incentives to stomp out small competitors or any industry disruption.And Google will certainly ignore the success of Youtube, which is still signficantly built on pirate content.

    2. fredwilson

      That’s why whitelists and blacklists need to be built on many data points not just one like DMCA takedowns

      1. Tyler Hayes

        Or credit scores.

        1. fredwilson

          YessssSocial data is driving much needed innovation in credit scores

      2. Brian Dear

        Seems like there might be an idea for a company to manage these sorts of data points..

        1. fredwilson

          Yes! Ideally three or four of them

  7. Joel Grus

    No one wants spam or malware, but lots of people are genuinely looking to download unauthorized copies of copyrighted materials. This makes me question how similar the problems actually are.

    1. fredwilson

      Lots of people also want to spam you. They may be the same kind of people who will pirate content that is available legally

      1. Joel Grus

        Let me put it differently.If Gmail offers “spam protection”, none of its users are going to say, “I want spam, so I’ll use a different mail provider.” If Norton offers “malware protection”, none of its users are going to say, “I want malware, so I’ll use different anti-virus software.”But there are lots of Google users (and it’s a mistake to think it’s just “spammers”, it’s also college students and your neighbors and the otherwise law-abiding) who *want* pirated content. And so no matter how good Google’s “piracy protection”, there’s nothing that stops these users from switching to a search engine that ignores the blacklist (or that *highlights* results from the blacklist).

        1. fredwilson

          I believe if the content industry made its product totally available online with little to no friction at a reasonable price, the only pirates would be folks who have no means to pay or folks who blatantly ignore right and wrong

          1. toddmck

            You are right about that. It doesn’t seem like this is really GOOG’s problem to solve. Can’t we just let the Google accurately represent the state of the world, and let the people with business model problems solve them?

          2. fredwilson

            No. Because Google is the distribution system for content. What they do shapes the market

          3. toddmck

            Right. That’s the problem. If we don’t want to promote artificial scarcity, then why should google be shaping the market to promote it?

          4. fredwilson

            I don’t think Google has moved that far. If they had I would not be supportive

          5. toddmck

            Agreed. I’m more worried about the slippery slope. There is a point to the issue of Google as the gatekeeper here. If they are in a dominant position, and then their partnership activities with big content end up becoming the basis for law, it becomes a lot harder for duckduckgo to compete with them by doing things that don’t just differentiate, but are now illegal. There is a point in every disruptor’s evolution where they become “the man” and I’m thinking we are getting very near to that with google.

          6. fredwilson

            That’s a concern for sure

          7. floodland

            Well google is not applying these rules to their own sites such as YouTube and blogger.. so I am having trouble agreeing that Google should be doing this type of filtering.

          8. fredwilson

            Do you think YouTube and blogger are roque websites that should be blacklisted?

          9. matthughes

            In other words, a better representation of the population than today’s infrastructure currently manifests.

          10. fredwilson

            I don’t follow

          11. matthughes

            Meaning, the infrastructure of the content industry somewhat artificially inflates the number of people that feel compelled to pirate content.The content industry should use most people’s desire to consume honestly to their advantage.

          12. fredwilson

            Yes. Exactly

          13. kidmercury

            right and wrong is not as clear cut as it may seem. media “stealing,” meaning copying, is widespread and i’m not sure how many people feel remorseful about it. there are definitely people “stealing” media now who have the economic means to pay for it and dont have moral qualms doing so — and have a strong sense of right and wrong when it comes to non-scarce goods/services.

          14. Cam MacRae

            What incentive exists to make that happen? Taking that position is largely irrational for the owner of a monopoly.

          15. fredwilson

            if they want the tech industry to do things they may have to do things

          16. Cam MacRae

            you make it sound like it’s a negotiation. they want congress, which is beholden to them, to legislate that the tech industry do things. notwithstanding recent spectacular cockups, history demonstrates that they have a reasonable chance of success.

          17. fredwilson

            We we will see

          18. Cam MacRae

            Sadly I agree that we will.Posner has written some very sane papers on the economics and law of intellectual property, focussing on copyright. His view that rights holders have been overcompensated probably gels with your own.As for me, I feel that intellectual property law should be reformed such that the expected ratio of the net present value of revenues to costs is 1, and failing that, that all intellectual property save trademarks should be abolished.

          19. Dan Thornton

            I think the best example of the difference between piracy and paying was either Kevin Kelly or Chris Anderson.The pirates are time rich and cash more, and can afford time to play around with P2P sharing to find the one file that’s in a decent enough format etc.The legal content buyers are cash rich and time poor, and would rather buy a track for 99p than spend 2 hours going around forums.I’ve seen enough very highly paid people share and accept pirate content over the years because someone they trusted could provide it directly to know it’s not a moral or means argument. It’s an ease argument – moral arguments just cloud the facts

      2. toddmck

        To me, it seems like Joel is raising a valid point. It is not about the “kind of people” involved in the activity, but the role being played and the reason for that. Certainly, bad people do bad things, let’s stipulate that, and not complicate it with the fact that good people also do bad things and bad people do good things.The point is that with spam and malware, you have a publisher attempting to disguise something that people do not want as something that people do want. The purpose of the filtering and blackballing is to provide the public with a more accurate picture of what is being offered and to protect the public from harm.This is not what penalizing sites that seem to (possibly) support infringing copyright does (assuming you can get that right, which is a hard problem). The point of this is NOT to protect the public. It is to prevent the public from finding what she is looking for in an attempt to protect the publisher’s competitors from harm.That does seem to be a bit different, in terms of “what problem are we trying to solve”. And it has nothing to do with whether someone wanting to watch the olympics online would also send me an offer for cheap viagra, which is what it seems like you were saying.

        1. fredwilson

          Yes but we also have an obligation to create a model that allows creators to earn a living

          1. Brian Dear

            Exactly. This is my biggest beef with many in the hacker community. There’s this communistic idea that “everything should be free,” but it ignores the fact that if I create content and don’t get paid, I have a big disincentive to creating new content. Basic economics has a real role in this debate, but unfortunately misguided idealism often precludes it. Business models based on giving away the store never succeed, ever.

          2. LE

            “but it ignores the fact that if I create content and don’t get paid, I have a big disincentive to creating new content.”I am in no way for infringement of any kind.But I have loaded songs as anyone has that I haven’t paid for. But the overwhelming majority of music or video that I consume, I would say 97% are things that I have purchased and paid for. And I certainly don’t get any pleasure from getting away with something. Quite the contrary it doesn’t feel right to me.That said, the idea that people won’t create content if they don’t get paid, well, what is really being said is “if they don’t get paid by everybody”. Which is true. If they don’t get paid by anyone at all they won’t create content. But that is not what is happening. It’s about squeezing every last penny that they can. (Which is fine of course it’s what you try to do).The truth is infringement is more or less a cost of doing business. And if you factor in that cost many times people still can earn a living. A really nice living. And companies still make money.It’s just about earning every penny.There are plenty of times in business where people don’t get paid.Every time you go into a car showroom and don’t buy a car but waste the time of the salesman (even knowing you won’t buy the car) someone isn’t earning money. We get calls all the time from people who confuse us with competitors and we take the time to answer their questions (and guess what it doesn’t result in business we have tracked that). And multiple emails per day where we have to take the time to point people in the right direction (we answer the question and tack on a discount coupon to try to monetize the effort).What google is doing is a step in the right direction and I agree with what they are doing. But I also don’t think that content creators will stop creating content if a reasonable percentage of people steal that content. I just think that’s a populist argument.

          3. RudyC

            actually it’s a real good argument…and I totally agree. Let’s just face it, for the music industry, things are not going to change much.

          4. Pete

            Music is different. A bunch of my friends are into making music for dozens of years already and have created lots of really great content that has fans, is played in festivals and is on local radio – half of them haven’t earned a cent on their music, and the other half has earned less than what they’ve paid for their instruments.If we’d legislate that all music is legal to copy without permission, then it’s quite likely that many of the ‘pro’ artists would create less or no content. But we wouldn’t have a shortage of great music, we’d still have an overabundance of new content from artists who can’t resist creating even if they were forbidden to do so.

          5. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            Regarding Mom’s Apple Pie.You speak of the “many” in the hacker community. I am no communist but communism provides for the most stringent wage structures and the Soviet variety paid for arts (including sports) with far more rigour than such payments are collected by Hollywood. So this >>There’s this communistic idea that “everything should be free,””>>My granny found incentive to make the world’s best apple pie (or die trying) and she wasn’t even American – the only pay she got was a smile as with thanks we rushed off. She licensed her recipes with a very liberal license – she would even help you rip her off – I was pretty good at scones ! She forked other peoples recipes and so was a hacker – a life hacker! – I don’t think communist would fit the facts.So *some* things can be free and unsullied, I don’t think she ever was paid for anything she did, but she felt richly rewarded.On the other hand, some things *must be paid for* (work is one). There is no wage to the producer of music, but a hope of appreciation – there is no promise, nor should there be, because the hope of reward is the ultimate quality control. If you cannot make money as a musician, you are free to make music. If you can – good luck, but the idea of licensing my freedom to do as I please with what I buy is to me ridiculous – I own what I buy ! Or I do not – but then don’t pretend to sell it to me.If you disagree, where do you limit licensable creativity ? – Finger painting ? – Paw prints, why not copyright plant hybrids or nature itself – Oh I forgot – they have ! – A hell in the making.Next they will patent Mom’s Apple Pie – and that would be downright un- American! http://www.condenaststore.c

          6. JLM

            .This issue of finding the “new” model is actually quite interesting and, in my view, simple. It will take some balls to make it happen.Consider, as an example, the NCAA basketball tournament.It is the highest level of entertainment possible and yet it pays next to NOTHING for the talent and the product.And the real talent — the individual basketball players — don’t even receive reimbursement for their living and creative expenses.Why?Because there is a long standing “plantation” model at work here that literally generates almost $1B — not for the talent, not for the teams, not for the schools — for the freakin’ NCAA. Annually.If I had the time, I would conjure up my own tournament as a purchasing cooperative in which ALL the money would go to the teams and players. Every bit of it.I would broadcast the entire tournament on the Internet — no television only Internet live and recorded streaming.I would rent broke dick KMarts and WalMarts and put in 50 screens and food.Oh, well, anyway — it could happen.Screw the plantation model..

          7. Dave W Baldwin

            Problem JLM is back to basics. Professional is paid, Amatuer not.As far as college goes, it is more than sports… also music. You go on the road and play jazz for the purpose of recruitment to the college you go to.Back to your subject, what infuriates me is the Olympics. Basketball should not be professionals, for any country. Same for tennis.

          8. JLM

            .Everyone is an amateur until the money shows up.The NCAA Plantation model is very good for the………………………………………..NCAA.But it really shoplifts the work and energy of the players.Why shouldn’t the players receive a small stipend for the benefit of their labor? Why not?Coaches are making a damn good wage. Colleges are generating money. NCAA is making a bloody fortune.Why not the players?It is tantamount to “theft of services”..

          9. James Ferguson @kWIQly

            “Why not?”As an individual who played amateur sport at quite high levels, perhaps I can answer that in part (the view and not the man JLM :)If interested my background..>>Oxford Varsity – Judo, had me competing vs. national squad players / contenders and generally getting my ass whipped!Rowing at Oxford college level – had me seated behind an Olympic Gold medallist on one occasion (only !). The very best of a class in their sport, all played for nothing, but self-actualisation. >>Media “interference” brings money. Money can be followed by, drugs, sponsorships, politics, peer pressure, parental pressure (cosmetic beauty – what has that to do with winning ?), idolisation, childhood depression and the list goes on.I do not say that no sport should be professionalised, but that children need protection from all it entails, and this protection fails routinely.If you want to take it to the extreme then televise Children’s beauty pageants and make it commercial. If that leaves you with a sweet taste in your mouth then spare yourself reading on.From the raw material of innocent children comes the worst of humanity’s perversions – Some things are not meant to be priced – Children is one, Beauty is one and I believe aesthetic sport is another.For those that say it is necessary to give talented youngsters a way out of depressing social conditions I would say visit Africa – see a one legged amputee child competing until her heart is fit to burst, to be fastest or strongest, most skilled and most alive, not for money but because she can.These children need jobs from fair economic conditions, and freedom from economic protectionism and war (which is simply anti-trust at a national level).It is fun, because you cannot tax it or exploit it or arm it!If I were paid to make these comments you might suspect their veracity.I am not and whether you agree with my views or not I expect you would stipulate they are indeed mine not those of my sponsor – and that is why not !Speech to be free, must be amateur !

          10. RudyC

            @Fred no disrespect but 2 of the companies you help create do nothing but TAKE from the artists, turntable and soundcloud..@ soundcloud at least the artist may be able to build up an audience (highly unlikely), turntable on the other hand, does nothing for the artist.

          11. fredwilson

            Bullshit. Turntable is licensed and pays labels and publishers on every play. If you are going to take offense get your facts straight first

          12. RudyC

            @Donna…I never said that you could upload songs on either site although on SoundCloud most of the songs you can given the DJ has given permission and I agree w/you that at this point in their careers their main focus is to gain [email protected] went back and checked and I stand corrected. I apologize for the misstatement. Turntable is paying the license fees..sorry..

          13. Donna Brewington White

            I have tried to upload songs to both and Soundcloud that have been rejected due to copyright restrictions. I’m not trying to pirate, I just don’t know which songs are restricted until I try to upload. Same is true with Tumblr. And these are generally songs that I have purchased and then want to upload.If you find a song on Turntable, you can only play it on the site unless you want to buy it. Otherwise, the song is receiving airplay just like on the radio. This benefits the artist.The artists I know LOVE the idea of their music being played on TT.Most of the MP3s I’ve bought lately were discovered on the two sites you’ve mentioned.

          14. Gustavo Melo

            Creators earn a living today by steering clear of big media companies and copyright claims of any kind. These people become more statistically relevant by the minute as a new generation joins the scene.This media copyright business is all one big red herring – anyone who thinks copyright law is a tool against digital distribution just doesn’t “get it”. Distributing ones and zeroes to the masses is what the internet does, no matter what changes are done to Google or what websites are censored by the courts (i.e. the whole Pirate Bay situation in Europe), there will *always* be readily accessible ways to get content on the internet without paying. This will only ever not be true when the internet has ceased to be relevant as the social connectivity tool for the masses.The real threat to the big media companies who are pushing for these changes is the fact that they’re no longer the only (or even the best) path to a sustainable content creation practice. And let’s be clear – these changes are not the doing of the “long tail” creators, it is entirely about media companies trying to protect their hits business.Ten years from now, a whole new generation of content creators and investors will have been brought up with the mentality that the addressable market is only a percentage of the people who will consume the content, and that percentage grows or shrinks according to the quality of the content and the distribution platform, and the author’s relationship with their audience.Maybe then we’ll be able to stop debating this silliness about media copyrights and go back to focusing on things with some semblance of social or technological progress.I realize this is all somewhat besides the point, as the interest from an investment perspective is finding a way to navigate today’s ecosystem such as it is, but I guess my take on all of this is that the smart money will focus on innovative services that bridge the gap between a content creator and their audience, and find ways to steer clear of content creators who don’t “get it”.

  8. Jorge M. Torres

    I think it’s really important that the approach to refereeing content is buit and managed by independent competitive third parties, as you said in your post. A lot of the time a market based mechanism is a much better approach than legislation to removing the friction that arises when too many people/companies make competing ownership claims to content. Legislation often falls flat and yields unintended consequences. Litigation is an inefficient and wasteful way to get justice. The tech community intuitively understood this when SOPA and PIPA emerged. There are opportunities all around us to extend this concept into other areas, like patents, where competing ownership claims abound, friction is on the rise, and legislation has failed to provide a viable fix.

    1. Dan Thornton

      An independent third party like Youtube’s Content Matching system which consistently screws up?

      1. Jorge M. Torres

        Maybe there is a business opportunity around building something that works better?

        1. Dan Thornton

          It isn’t the technical part that tends to go wrong. Many, many examples exist of companies making claims on content they did not create to prevent others from sharing it, or from takedown notices being fired off at content which was often in line with fair use etc.

          1. Jorge M. Torres

            What you describe is at the heart of practically every dispute involving patents, copyrights, etc. My point is that there’s a tremendous need for more efficient, market-based, dispute resolution systems. We already know what inefficient looks like – litigation in federal court. I think there’s a market opportunity that can be captured by building a superior alternative to litigation and existing market-based mechanisms that aren’t working. Indeed, if Youtube’s Content Matching system isn’t working, then perhaps it’s worth exploring whether there’s a better way that companies can resolve IP disputes.

  9. Siminoff

    Two very similar problems. Looks like a lucrative new vertical for Return Path to take on.The private enforcement model is the best way to the solution both for the rights holders as well as the legitimate companies tangled in these issues.

    1. fredwilson

      My experience working with return path for the past twelve years certainly contributes to my confidence in this approach. I don’t know that they would want to enter this businesses. They are making a deeper commitment to email

  10. ShanaC

    I’m not sure this is a good idea. What is the difference between a message board posting most/all of an article by its users and a straight up SEO farm? How do you deal with the takedown notice in search?This could get interesting as people fight back their natural inclination to share as a way of forming group bonds.

  11. Luke Chamberlin

    Twenty years from now we’re all going to sit around the campfire and gripe about how boring and sanitized the internet has become, the same way that old school New Yorkers complain about how nobody gets mugged in Times Square anymore.

    1. fredwilson

      There are always places to get mugged in NYC and always will be

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        It’s a tricky balance right? You want to be safe but you don’t want to lose the character.I see the internet and a big city as metaphors for each other.

        1. fredwilson

          Me too

    2. Brian Dear

      Yes, but there are plenty of pickpockets. Muggings and pickpocketing still result in the loss of your stuff. But the thieves just have to get more subtle in their approach.

    3. aweissman

      I relate to this comment; just this past week a friend and I were reminiscing about how we used to get mugged on the upper west side all the time back in the day

  12. awaldstein

    I’m a big believer in third parties as the right direction for the answer.I have little faith or trust that large (no most any) company, including Google has the public good on par with their own.

  13. Luke Chamberlin

    The keyword here is “valid” takedown notice. What does this mean for artists? Or DJs? Or academics?Fair use is not always clear, but that won’t stop corporations from issuing takedown notices, especially if their influence becomes stronger.

    1. Brian Dear

      Hence the need for a third party system not dependent strictly on take-down notices.

      1. Luke Chamberlin

        Let’s say you collect a really great whitelist / blacklist of copyright infringing sites. What’s the business model? Who pays you for that information?

        1. fredwilson

          Lots of ways to make money in the whitelist/ blacklist businessCheck out returnpath.netThey do the same thing in email

          1. William Mougayar

            Amazon’s SES is another good example where they run effective email blacklisting management

          2. Luke Chamberlin

            I understand Return Path – every business wants to send emails and make sure they get delivered.But who is the customer for the copyright whitelist? What do they do with it? I’m missing @wmoug:disqus

          3. fredwilson

            services that serve up content and want to get more users

  14. Bruce Warila

    Google’s announcement and Fred’s suggestion and declaration (herein) great :). Copyrespect is a defining issue for this generation. Glad to see where you stand.

    1. fredwilson

      That paired with a belief that artificial scarcity is not a sustainable business model online

      1. Bruce Warila

        Agreed. Artificial scarcity is purple unicorn anyways. Fair, frictionless licensing is the way to go.

        1. fredwilson


  15. Henry Glover

    It would be nice if you could ‘up vote’ and ‘down vote’ search results – similar to Disqus. This would create daily policing of content by real users. It would also create a personal list of search results that are relevant to you and give data to the search provider about the relevance and legitimacy of the content.A search engine with the option to select ‘natural results’ OR ‘user voted’ results would be a cool experiment. The user voted results would be the natural white, grey and blacklist for copyrighted material, spam and just boring content.There are plenty of times that I find what I was looking for on page two of the results but it is something that is only relevant to me at that moment and isn’t something that is relevant to followers – so it is pointless to share on g+, twitter or other media sites. A private ‘up vote’ and ‘down vote’ would solve that.I drew up business plan along this line a few years ago but I didn’t feel like it was the time to take it to market so I moved on to other projects. Now might be the time to revisit.

  16. Mark Birch

    Would be interested in your thought on content companies claiming NASA videos. Seems like this is not going to be a battle solved anytime soon…

    1. fredwilson

      I hadn’t seen that. Will dig in.

    2. Luke Chamberlin

      I saw that too and had the same question. The YouTube system allows the copyright claimant to start collecting ad revenue immediately, even during the appeals process, which encourages misuse.

  17. gorbachev

    Google should additionally change their algorithm to punish serial abusers of fraudulent DMCA takedown notices.I believe they’d have all the appropriate data from their YouTube DMCA stats.

    1. Aviah Laor

      A public database of DMCA abusers will help websites owners to ignore them.

    2. Ellie Kesselman

      There is a public database of DMCA users and abusers http://www.chillingeffects…. and yes, it would be helpful if Google could take that into consideration in their search algorithm too.

  18. Brian Dear

    The key is going to be instant content availability at a low price. Just like taxes, when you reduce the cost, more people participate in the system, thus leading to the ability to lower prices even more. If everyone on the planet paid 1 cent for an iTunes song, that would be make the opportunity cost of piracy higher than the cost of doing the right thing. Content producers win and consumers win and pirates will have to find something else to steal.

    1. fredwilson

      We are in violent agreement this morning

    2. William Mougayar

      So pricing is a big factor. Great analogy. If something is cheap enough and legal that’s better than free and illegal.

    3. Aviah Laor

      Why not demand from every public company that tries to enforce copyrights, to disclose how much they actually pay to the content producer

    4. Aviah Laor

      Well, for many people on the planet “the service is not available in your country”

    5. Abdallah Al-Hakim

      you make a very good valid point. The iTunes example is terrific. I sincerely believe that majority of people would rather pay and feel honest verus getting music and videos illegally (as long as price is fair)

  19. deancollins

    I’m continually surprised how good Googles “comment spam” checker is for my personal blog at of 10 comments it flags 1 incorrectly as spam that isnt and allows 1 through that is spam but 8 out of 10 classed perfectly.

  20. Kasi Viswanathan Agilandam

    Google is the bestest example of middle man economy … they don’t produce anything but still they ….

  21. Abdallah Al-Hakim

    I am liking the the list ideas. Also, I think using a crowd based approach to forming such lists could bring some value.

  22. RudyC

    A very real blanket statement is: no one pays directly for music anymore. Most people paying for music I place into 2 different components; people older than 45 and kids younger than 14, basically there the same people, their parents.A scary thing for the industry is that no children are paying for music period. But that doesn’t mean that the industry is dead, it simply needs to address the change. Musicians have become brands themselves, sell their music to TV in the way of advertising, or to the movies. But the biggest way musicians still get compensated is concerts, clubs and so forth.Making a living @ .99 downloads is not going to pay very many artists their mortgage. Most downloads today are less than 1M even for the most popular artists, on top of that you have distribution costs (ITunes), and the labels that eat most of that dollar up. This is a fight for the labels not the musicians. People need to understand this.As for Google playing good cop, laughable at best. My kids have been downloading YouTube music to their Ipods for years, it is a secret that all their friends and their friends know. Why no one ever goes after them is laughable as well, my guess is because of the deep pockets.That is one lesson we seem to be getting all the time, get too big and be able to afford too many lawyers and no one will touch you. Just ask OJ, and Lehman Bros. or Countrywide that..

    1. kidmercury

      absolutely. the stats are in, music sales are declining by virtually any measure. even mp3 sales are declining. personally i pay $10 a month for rhapsody, but how much of that does any artist really get? probably close to zero.i wonder about movies. i rent movies off amazon pretty routinely, although if it’s not available on amazon to rent, i’ll pick up the torrent. there are full length movies routinely uploaded to youtube too.

      1. RudyC

        One surprising stat that actually blew my mind was CD sales increased last year for the first time. If you look into that stat further you will see the reason why..Adele. She was responsible for 10% of ALL CD sales.What does that tell you. That music CAN sell but only if the content is fantastic. (Adele had 5 top 10 songs on the album, crossed over different generations).My bigger question is why everyone ignored the YouTube comment?

        1. Luke Chamberlin

          Millions of teenagers used to record mix tapes off the radio. I don’t see downloading from YouTube being that much different.

          1. kidmercury


        2. RudyC

          @luke…because it’s illegal according to the music industry…When a small operational site does this, they do everything within their power to get them shut down…As for off the radio, true dat, the only difference is the quality..the quality of the tapes was poor..

      1. kidmercury

        i find the allthingsd article suspect for its lack of references to time periods being measured. here is a detailed study (albeit from last year, but taking a much longer timeframe) that is far more ominous: http://articles.businessins

        1. fredwilson

          i heard that soundexchange has paid $1bn in royalties to the music industry that’s real money

    2. LE

      “Making a living @ .99 downloads is not going to pay very many artists their mortgage.”Creating something and/or doing what you find enjoyable and making money are two different things.There is no de facto right to make money because you have created something. That is the typical problem with many artists. They totally ignore economic factors when deciding to pursue art. They don’t understand that they are involved in a “profession” where many people will work for next to nothing and live meagerly in order to pursue their dream. Just like attorneys will not work for next to nothing (they either charge the big dollar or they don’t practice law at all..)If you focus on making money first, and put your art or fun second, you will be in a better position to enjoy yourself later.Fred can ski and go to the beach and has houses I believe in both locations. So he can have fun now. Had he started out wanting to ski and surf from the start nobody would be reading this blog. And Gotham Girl wouldn’t have married him either. She didn’t want to be a “surfer dude” when she grew up or a “ski bum”. And I assume she wouldn’t have married one either.…As Jack Horner character in Boogie Nights said to Dirk Diggler regarding the man who financed the porn films “money – it’s an important part of the [artistic] process”.Combine your passion with something that you can realistically earn money at and you will be able to do what you really enjoy later. Sometimes you can combine both from the start (like with computers).

      1. CJ

        I liked your comment solely for the truth of the quote you included. Nice job.

      2. uniphil

        Wow. Everyone benefits from artists’ work.Artists drive a lot of cash flow in our economy. I’ve heard figures around 7x for stimulated cash flow vs. dollars invested in arts. But it doesn’t matter. The economic benefits are the card to pull out to fight against cuts in hard times, but investing in arts purely for the economic benefits would be is disappointingly misguided. The considerable cultural and social benefits should be enough.I can’t find any parallel at all in your comparison of artists making art for ‘fun’ and Fred’s surfing and skiing for fun (no offence Fred, I’m sure you take your sports very seriously). Maybe I’m in some anomalous social circles, but I think that any artist I know would feel misunderstood by that characterization.Saying all this, I’ll admit I’m on a path more like the one you think all artists should take: I’m currently not pursuing my passion for music and film, and instead studying computer science. I put art second. And I have a tremendous respect for those brave enough to put their art first.I submit that for many people, especially artists, putting “money first and your art second” would make them deeply unhappy. Probably for the rest of their lives. I don’t think that what most artists are after in pursuing art can be bought.Some goals I had when I was putting art first: technical mastery, deep emotional connection and expression, service to my peers and community, and a deeper meaning for my own life would be a start. “Fun” was never on the list. Taking off 20 years to make a pile of money would-… will, hurt all of those goals.I don’t know. For me, trying to live my life by following a critically examined set of values and goals is very important. Maybe the most important. It’s the closest to purpose and meaning I can find. Maybe you disagree.To keep a bit more on topic (at least within this comment thread), many independent artists can’t even make money touring these days. Rates of merch and CD sales have dropped by about half at live events (at least according to one money-savvy and successful artist friend) in the last seven or so years. My sister’s band has been saving up for months to go on tour. Breaking even or making a profit is not assured in any way, but they have to promote themselves somehow. The internet is still a tough place to get a good start for new bands.It’s a tough life for artists. I think we owe them a bit more respect.But anyway I mainly just wanted to say that I think the view that artists only pursue art — blindly ignoring economic realities around them — for “enjoyment” is ridiculous.

        1. LE

          “The considerable cultural and social benefits should be enough.”I’m speaking solely about the choice of art for an individual and what it does for them economically.”I can’t find any parallel at all in your comparison of artists making art for ‘fun’ and Fred’s surfing and skiing for fun”That’s not the connection. The point is Fred choose a career (initially engineering and then VC) where he could earn a living. He then made enough money, after many years of hard work as he has mentioned, to be able to buy and listen to music on good sound systems and to take vacations and essentially do what he wants to do. Because he focused on economic issues and earning a living doing something he would enjoy, but not solely having fun. That is the point I made.”I submit that for many people, especially artists, putting “money first and your art second” would make them deeply unhappy. Probably for the rest of their lives.”That’s unfortunate but then you have to accept the consequences. That is not societies problem to provide someone with happiness whatever they choose to do or think they need.

          1. uniphil

            Well it’s all tied together. When you state that it’s not society’s problem to provide someone with happiness whatever they choose to do, in a conversation about arts, you at least hint at your position on public arts funding. Which has a lot of influence on the viability of a career in the arts, and has a bearing on an artist’s decision to pursue that path.I guess I still miss the connection then, because you keep talking about enjoyment and fun. Oh well :)I agree with your last point. We may disagree about what exactly does fall under society’s problem, but as a principle, yeah, people need to take responsibility for themselves. I think society is responsible for fostering culture.And then back to artists: I think we also agree. Artists make a tough choice and are responsible for that choice. You fault them for it, I admire them for it.

    3. Dan Thornton

      I subscribe to Spotify which pays pennies in royalties to the 90% of the artists I listen to.But for a small percentage, I’ll actively buy their music directly, buy merchandise and go and see them on tour.That’s always been the case, but in some examples, I’d never have even heard of them if they don’t make sampling accessible. And then if they didn’t encourage interaction with their community, I’d have never got around to digging out my credit card.

  23. Dale Allyn

    Totally off-topic: My daughter just sent this to me, and I enjoyed it and thought the A VC community might enjoy it as well.…In some ways it fits better with yesterday’s post, but it sort of fits here (or anywhere) too.

    1. JLM

      .Wow, that’s like bumping into God and having Him tell you about Adam & Eve.What a damn story.To think that the guy who started all of this is still alive and kicking.Almost as impressive as meeting Al Gore? Haha.

      1. Dale Allyn

        Yes. I love meeting such people (not the Gore part ;). So much wisdom from life experiences from “being there”. What a gift.I was once in Yosemite on a photo excursion with my wife. We bumped into an older couple after dinner and the gentleman noticed my photo gear. He asked a few questions about my lenses and I answered. I asked him about his interest in optics; was he a photographer, etc. His wife, apparently tired of his modesty causing a gap in our communication, said “my husband designed the Hubble Telescope, but he’s too humble to say so”.We then shifted the conversation a bit (uh huh) in which he explained that it was obviously a team effort and lots of people involved, but he was lead. He was retired by then and they talked a bit about his retirement party. They both said the send-off party was amazing for the way he was treated. He was humbled by the people who came to the party – highest ranking and otherwise – and what they said, etc.A kind and wonderful gentleman to speak with for a few moments. Of course his wife was very pleasant as well.

    2. Carl Rahn Griffith

      Wow. A Must-Read! Thank you!

      1. Dale Allyn

        I’m glad you enjoyed it, Carl.

  24. Juliano Polimeno

    Same comment on “Fast, Fair, and Frictionless Content Licensing On The Internet”.



    1. fredwilson

      yupand that will happenbut i am not sure it will be mainstream



        1. Ellie Kesselman

          Yes, Dino. It is distinctly uncool to enforce copyright law, online. Anti-spam services are perceived favorably. But everyone hates a patent troll. Similar attitudes prevail toward DMCA, CCC etc.

        2. fredwilson

          i have young folks in my family. that is not exactly true

          1. Ellie Kesselman

            That’s probably because you and your wife are good parents and rear your children by setting a good example.

          2. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  26. Pete Griffiths

    I am curious to better understand your judgement about some real sites. So…what about Pinterest? Which list would that go on?

    1. fredwilson

      greylist until they get licensed i suspect

      1. Pete Griffiths

        Hmm. We differ there and it is I suspect an important difference. For me there is little doubt they are involved in massive copyright infringement. With enough cash it is of course possible to mount a defense but it is surely an ex post facto justification. So if we put Pinterest on a greylist, what is the meaning of such lists?And the chance of them getting licensed seems to me to be vanishingly small if by that we mean that they have licenses to all the pinned content they have copied. This gigantic collection comes from all over the web. Even if we assume a world in which such assets are fingerprinted (something like the Stipple model), even if we have frictionless licensing terms that somehow embody a rule base that covers all such use cases as Pinterest, and even if the cost to Pinterest of a given image was low, the cost of running a site like Pinterest would surely be astronomical?An irony of frictionless licensing that occurs to me is that if it is incredibly easy for anyone to attach terms of use to their assets then anyone can charge a small amount for any asset and as assets are mashed up constantly the accounting for such use is going to really add up and the cost of using assets may rise considerably. Right now the net relies on a huge amount of fee use through more or less obvious infringement. Taking away infringement won’t necessarily lower costs and foster creativity.It is a tricky problem. I laud your attempt to think it through but with the best will in the world I’m doubtful.

        1. fredwilson

          I bet that if realtime instantaneous licensing was available via API when they got started they would have built it in from the startThe problem is how does something like that happen?

          1. Pete Griffiths

            It’s possible but I doubt it. For very understandable reasons the content owners are extremely cautious in the kinds of licenses they agree to. Consider their relatively recent history. When George Lucas made Star Wars he did a deal in which took a reduced $ in exchange for the merchandizing. As we now know that was a stupendous deal for him. The media companies learned and now those deals don’t happen. Similiarly, old contracts did not anticipate new media and hence did not cover it but today’s licensing terms literally include such clauses as ‘all media whether existent or as yet undiscovered in all territories on planet earth or any other planet.” And that is not an exaggeration. So at this point , once bitten twice shy, the media companies are very nervous about licensing all they have. They are being perfectly rational actors not luddites.

          2. fredwilson

            right and that is why Pinterest launches as an unlicensed service and becomes a cesspool of copyright violation. who is at fault? i think both sides are and in particularly the content owners reluctance to make it easy for three engineers in a loft to get licensed.

          3. Guest

            just testing replying to a comment via e-mail….Subject: [avc] Re: Copyright and The Internet

          4. Ahmet Kara

            Testing again. Sorry for the inconvenience.Subject: [avc] Re: Copyright and The Internet

          5. Pete Griffiths

            Respectfully, I think this is missing the key point Fred.Let’s take a step sideways from digital media for a second and consider how other forms of property are treated. If I own plant producing widgets I have a perfect right to be reluctant to make it easy for anyone to get licensed if I so choose and nobody finds this surprising. I may make a good or bad business decision in so choosing but it is my right to do so. There are certainly edge cases, such as utilities, where there is such a clear case for them being treated as public goods that such businesses (e.g. water, power, transportation) are often regulated in ways that constrain the exploitation of the property in question, but even in such cases nobody doubts that the property owner has real rights and can make business driven choices that are rational to best exploit his/her product. And observe that by saying that you think it should be easy for the engineers to ‘get licensed’ this implicitly acknowledges that there is a property owner in play here, with rights. What I continue to struggle with is understanding why in this digital case it should be wrong for content owners to be reluctant (when it may be absolutely in their best economic interests to be reluctant) and we criticize such reluctance and blame them for the violations that ensure. whereas in so many cases where the property is not digital we do not take this kind of postion at all and indeed would be horrified at the suggestion that we should.

          6. fredwilson

            Because their property can and is replicated at no cost every minute of every day by otherwise law abiding citizens. Society establishes norms by its behavior

          7. Pete Griffiths

            The fact that something can readily be done by otherwise law abiding citizens is not in and of itself a justification for such behavior.I do however completely agree with your point about social norms. And if indeed we end up with behavior so prevalent that it is tantamount to jury nullification then some legal change with respect to digital IP is inevitable. But be careful what you wish for. Bear in mind that as in so many cases concerning IP if you abolish protection IP with one class of IP in mind you nonetheless end up abolishing it for all and that can come at a high cost. Just as abolishing patents would have a devastating impact on some areas e.g. drugs, so would redefining copyright on content so that owners no longer controlled pricing or channels. It is, for example, presently hard to understand how one would make a movie or a TV show.

          8. fredwilson

            That’s why I am suggesting new approaches that would foster a new era of copyrespect

          9. Pete Griffiths

            It occurred to me that I should have mentioned the fact that there is a provision of the Copyright Act which does something like what you are looking for. Section 115 permits companies to obtaincompulsory licenses from copyright holders to reproduce and distribute copies of sound recordings at a statutory rate which is adjusted over time. Not surprisingly you have to conform to various requirements for such a compulsory license but isn’t that the kind of thing you have in mind?

          10. fredwilson

            Yes. But that is just for internet radio

          11. Pete Griffiths

            I don’t think so.A concrete example in the case of music is Medianet who provide access to millions of songs to white label stores for download purchase as well as streaming. Their whole business model relies on their ability to not only license the performance from the labels but to access mechanical rights by compulsory license with payment terms determined by the Copyright Board.The issue of compulsory licenses is rather broader even than copyright – it extends to patents and is I believe specifically permissible under international law.…A good recent example is India’s approach to HIV drugs.The more I think about this the more blindingly obvious it is how related it is to your original post.

          12. fredwilson

            Turntable uses medianet. They still had to go out and cut deals with labels and publishers

          13. Pete Griffiths

            For performance rights.Th complication is composition rights. Unless I am mistaken mechanicals can be obtained by compulsory notice, which is the intriguing parallel to your original post.

          14. fredwilson

            i don’t think so

          15. Pete Griffiths

            Sorry – should have been clearer. I meant to say that Medianet had to (a) cut deals with labels for performance rights, and (b) get underlying composition rights by compulsory notice if and where necessary (not necessarily owned by the labels).I can’t see why Turntable would need to deal with the labels or issue compulsory notices. That should have been handled by Medianet.and surely these kinds of chains of rights issues would likely follow any more liberal / compulsory licensing scheme?

        2. Ellie Kesselman

          Hello Pete! I am fond of Pinterest. It is slightly humiliating, to be so true to gender stereotype. Your point is extremely valid. The only way I can use Pinterest, without compromising the rights of artists and other original content creators, is to pin images from sources such as Microsoft Research, open access journals, Flickr (iff there is an associated CC/by-nc/ license. Yale Law Library is one of the few I have found), a Voroni or other visual via Github, book jackets and pre-1923 polar expedition archival photos.Pinterest might surprise us. Widespread and unauthorized re-purposing of original artistic images could be a catalyst for the frictionless licensing that you mentioned. (Creative Commons should have satisfied that need already though, no?) Or: The internet will react adaptively, by avoiding use of image file formats (*.jpg, *.png) entirely. That doesn’t seem like a good outcome though.

          1. Pete Griffiths

            Nothing to be ashamed of in conforming to gender stereotypes. They are real enough. I can’t recommend ‘A Billion Wicked Thoughts’ too highly. Big data methods applied to the study of human sexuality. Outstanding and eye opening. 🙂

  27. Michael Stanczyk

    The idea behind this is good. Although it would be interesting to see the reverse, where Google could show the sites with the most valid takedown notices. What’s the old saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”I think this may be an issue for sites on the cutting edge of legality with respect to copyright infringement, some of them may be harmed by this new Google policy, even if a court later finds that what they are doing is in the clear (in effect Google is setting itself up to make rulings on legality beforehand).

  28. idomyownloan

    Yeah totally suck ass because now they only want sites that has their videos. I am ranking on the 1st page for many of their links. See here

  29. HP

    the premiss that spam and copyright are related problems is very wrong. A court does not deem whether something is spam where as a court is required to categorize something as violating copyright.

  30. Kunvay

    Google’s recent algorithm update will force more people to learn about copyright and be more sensitive to how they manage their intellectual property. This is potentially one of the biggest benefits of this new policy change aside from the obvious benefits to copyright holders of original creative work. We think this is a good thing.

  31. fredwilson

    We have a competitive market in search. If you don’t like googles algorithms you can choose Gabes or Bings

  32. fredwilson