Survey: Majority of US citizens want search engines to block pirated content

This Internet user most likely doesn't want to have cute cat videos blocked

There's been a lot of debate over whether or not search engines such as Google or Microsoft's Bing should block access to all links that serve up pirated content, including downloadable movies and music; numbers from Google itself show that it received requests to remove over 50 million URLs from its search engine results in 2012.

This week, a new survey of US citizens, with support from Google, showed that 53 percent of them would like to see access to those kinds of sites blocked from search engine results. The survey comes from the American Assembly, based at Columbia University, and is based on telephone interviews with over 2,000 US people in August 2011. The same survey also talked with a number of people in Germany and showed that 69 percent of those citizens support the blocking of pirate sites by search engines.

The numbers were just a small part of an extensive survey of US and German citizens with the overall theme of determining the "copy culture" of sharing electronic content with others in both countries. In the US, a vast majority of those surveyed felt it was OK to share content they owned privately with family and friends. However, when it came to public distribution of pirated content, the majority of those surveyed were against such measures.

Source: American Assembly | Image via American Assembly

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... I wasn't surveyed. Were you? Phone surveys don't represent the appropriate demographic because many people who use the internet have stepped back from archaic and obsolete landlines.

"telephone interviews"

of course you'll get that kind of result,
as phone number can be used to trace you back.
do some annonymous survey back with the result

You can make surveys say anything.

survey:
a. do you want to be punched in the face?
b. do you want all searches to be censored?

result: the people have spoken !! - they want to censor searches!!

Indeed. It was a PHONE survey. Since phone surveys are not legally allowed to call cell/mobile phones, that means that the only respondents were old people with land lines (the only people who still use land lines) who are still dumb enough to answer phone surveys...

depends who the 2,000 they could be all pro anti piracy and the survey could have been done at some media company or something.

I was thinking the same thing. This survey could of been mandatory for all RIAA and MPAA (and the respective agencies in Germany) employees that just went down the rows of cubicles, etc. Mark yes or your fired kinda thing..

Dear knee-jerk internet libertarians who think this means a majority of Americans are pro-censorship:

They want RELEVANT SEARCH RESULTS.

It's not about telling them to "just stop searching for pirated content, then".

It's not about them wanting to stop piracy.

It's not about them wanting to paint reality with prettier colors.

It's about them being sick and bloody tired of searching for a song title and getting spamtastic mp3 download sites. Or searching for a book and getting spamtastic ebook download sites. It's about why the hell should we constantly be forced to sift through sketchy sites that make it a priority to understand and take advantage of the ranking algorithms used by search engines, no matter how the algorithms are changed to improve relevance.

But no no, go on, keep believing that there's a great big bloody war being fought against freedom.

Christ.

Hell no, not me!

I'm a "regular" guy. Wife. Kid. Corporate job. I don't pirate any more. (College was a different story).

I mention all of that to show that I don't gain any benefit from easy availability of free stuff.

But I absolutely do not want search engines doing this for me. Do I know anyone who would want this? No. I question the validity of the survey; smells like BS to me.

Meh let the US block everything they want already and be done with it. I am sure people will find ways around it lke p2p, torrents, newgroups etc etc that can't be stopped. Just let them go ahead and do it so they realize once its done they have still failed and not even put a dent into piracy.

I just really want it done and over with now all the money they spend asking for this to be done could go on something else. I know they want to line there pockets with cash and get help from the media, film industry and stuff but seriously just do it and shut up already.

You can share files legally, cant be stopped no way it could as long as people can send data over the internet.. You can encrypt whatever you download so know one knows what the hell you are downloading, again can't b stopped due to privacy laws. You cannot stop pirated stuff end of.. so yeah let them try and fail.

MrAnalysis said,
Meh let the US block everything they want already and be done with it. I am sure people will find ways around it lke p2p, torrents, newgroups etc etc that can't be stopped.

DMCA. DMCA. DMCA. Even newsgroups posts get DMCA'd now.

InsaneNutter said,

Exactly, no more needs to be said...


Could anyone in the universe for once please explain this stupid logic. Who funds/organizes/executes a survey is irrelevant as long as we're told how the questions were worded and how the sample was selected.

This is just childish selectiveness that lets you ignore anything that might be true simply on the grounds of who speaks it.

The problem is that the questions are OFTEN worded so that the people who fund the survey get the answer they want.

Xenon said,
The problem is that the questions are OFTEN worded so that the people who fund the survey get the answer they want.

I think you have it backwards. The problem is that we OFTEN are never told the wording at all, which just serves to encourage assumptions that there's "something to hide", and rather than blaming it on bad journalism, we feed the anti-corporate circlejerk.

Journalists latch onto these surveys hungry for whatever media trollfest they can get in on. Clicks clicks and MOAR CLICKS.

I don't buy it. The question was probably open ended and misleading, or conjecture from a series of question. I really doubt 53% of people surveyed would have even understood a direct "Do you think major search engines should block links to pirated materials?" question well enough to answer it correctly.

Even if true, 53% is actually not that much, that would mean about half of people don't want it blocked. That's not much for a company to make a decision on. Although I doubt Google cares more about polls than legal issues.

jakem1 said,
I suspect that this survey was designed to justify the fact that Google gimp their search results.

Don't really mind. Google put all the removed content into their DMCA takedown files, they're free to download to insepect.. if you want something illegal just search them and not even bother with regular 'safe' sites.

The Internet is bigger than America, and some sites that have pirated content on them also have legitimate content on them. Instead of trying to bully the rest of the world on behalf of your corporations try actually embracing the digital age and find better ways to make people pay for content. Look at how many former pirates paid for copies of Windows 8 because it was reasonably priced.

The modern sense of entitlement does not change the fact that because you cannot afford something digitally stored, it does not mean that you deserve to get it through some other channel, such as via pirating.

It will never cease to amaze me how many people pirate something that they consider overpriced, only to use it on a daily basis. If a product is not worth the money, then you should simply not use it. If a product is too expensive, then you should work to afford it.

The last statement, particularly in some countries, is sometimes unachievable, and I genuinely feel for people in such circumstances. However, that does not mean that anyone deserves to sidestep paying for such a product. Receiving the fruits of someone else's labor without paying for it is wrong, regardless of your feelings about copying ones and zeros. The only difference between digital and physical is that people can frequently get away with stealing something digital; the fact that so many people are okay with that idea only shows how far society has fallen.

Why those 53 percent of the over 2000 people, wouldn't just stop searching for pirated content and leave the censorship out of the picture?

Pupik said,
Why those 53 percent of the over 2000 people, wouldn't just stop searching for pirated content and leave the censorship out of the picture?

In the past I've searched for games and music only to get trolled by google with endless torrent listing sites. Torrent spam is the bane of anyone who wants to use search engines for non-pirate related searches, for example trying to find a fix for game launching error.

It really does annoy the crap out of me.. but what annoys me more is when my ISP blocks certain sites such as the pirate bay that contain information on said fix!

Right now, I see the torrent listings in the same light as those that have empty webpages with just keywords and links hoping to get clicks.

I'm all for free speech but when google is indexing sites that are blantant spam something needs to be done.

sagum said,

Torrent spam is the bane of anyone who wants to use search engines for non-pirate related searches

"-torrent" is your friend

Who uses search engines to find pirate content.

Funny how US citizens who think highly of the Constitution is in favour of censoring things on the Internet. Or does Free Speech only apply to things you agree with.

First its piracy but where does it end?

If you want to criticize the US and the citizens (but ignore that German citizens wanted this more), perhaps you should know that censorship as it relates to the Constitution does not apply to search engines.

Nope. First off, censorship is when the government restricts free speech. A search engine can remove/hide/restrict whatever information they wish to as they are not the government. It degrades the service and could make it less useful, but if they want to do it they can. Of course, it is your right to go to another service that does supply the content you wish to read.

This also has nothing to do with the government, as it is individual people saying they do not want to see it. If a person does not want to see porn, but it is all about free speech, does that mean that person should be forced to watch it, because by not watching it harms someone else's free speech? Bing has a checkbox in the settings to turn on/off safe search. If some individual turns that option on, does that violate someone's free speech?

Third, Google started doing this a while ago, hiding content from searches that return well known pirating sites. People seem to be getting along OK without it.

Sorry, but this battle was "lost" when copyright law went into effect. All that's left to sort out is how to enforce existing law on the internet.

It's a messy subject, but claiming "free speech" isn't the slam dunk people think it is. Intellectual property is not speech. As inconvenient as it is, public distribution of copyrighted movies and music is actually illegal. Just attaching speech to it (say you posted the link on your personal blog) doesn't protect illegal distribution of goods.

Suppose you were a pawn shop that attached original inspirational speeches to all the stolen goods you sold. Does that protect the sale of those items?

There may be a good argument against blocking pirated content, but free speech isn't it...

TheLegendOfMart said,
Americans like to use "Free Speech" for all sorts of things that aren't technically speech.

Surely censoring websites goes against the First Amendment?

Freedom of expression.

BradyM said,
Sorry, but this battle was "lost" when copyright law went into effect. All that's left to sort out is how to enforce existing law on the internet.

It's a messy subject, but claiming "free speech" isn't the slam dunk people think it is. Intellectual property is not speech. As inconvenient as it is, public distribution of copyrighted movies and music is actually illegal. Just attaching speech to it (say you posted the link on your personal blog) doesn't protect illegal distribution of goods.

Suppose you were a pawn shop that attached original inspirational speeches to all the stolen goods you sold. Does that protect the sale of those items?

There may be a good argument against blocking pirated content, but free speech isn't it...

I would like to say that piracy does have a leg to stand on when it comes to arguing about free speech problems. For example, many people in North Korea risk being sent to jail For distributing western content through the country. They're not risking being sent to jail for the petty reason of distributing content freely, but it is more of a political crackdown on information, where the government does not wish people to have access to influences outside of the borders of their own control.

Many of the citizens are starting to gain access to information, knowledge and culture that they were previously not exposed to thanks to the government's control on the information flow. Stating that copyright is not a free speech issue is rather ignorant when it comes to the overall picture. Intellectual property law really needs to have a name more fitting to the actual underlying mechanisms, and that name is intellectual monopoly law .

intellectual monopoly law give someone the abilitie to have a monopoly over an idea, and how that idea is distributed to other people. This is exactly why intellectual property law does indeed need to come under the scrutiny of whether or not it is a free speech problem. Just saying "oh, it's a movie therefore it's not speech", or saying "oh, It's a website, therefore its not speech" is not going to cut it. Both are ideas, and that is the main thing that free speech is meant to protect. It isn't just about being free to say what you want, it is about being able to express the ideas that you want and for ideas to freely flow from one another. This means not just limiting the distribution of an idea to an elite few who have the money to do so.

Pirating via downloading or hosting content is not free speech.

In nations where some content can get you jailed, it's a completely different story. Pirating there is a means of possible survival, as well as a means of distributing otherwise illegal information. This is not the problem in America; we are not [widely] censoring books, movies, shows or software so that the only tool for accessing such content is through pirating.

In America, I personally hate the RIAA and the MPAA, as well as their stranglehold on Copyright Law, which goes far beyond what is reasonable. However, people downloading modern books, movies, shows, music and software are not expressing themselves; they are not using free speech in any way. Whether you agree with it or not, they are sidestepping legal avenues to take something that--for whatever reason they come up with (from try-before-you-buy to intentional theft)--they feel entitled too.

If there is no legal avenue to get access to the content, then I do believe that the DMCA would actually provide an umbrella for a person doing so. But, make no mistake, at no point does the pirating of anything come under the guise of free speech. To pirate something means that you are taking something, for free, for your own consumption. Nothing about that deals with freedom of speech. Relatedly, it's not free speech to partake in a crime by listing illegally hosted content. Until someone convinces the courts that pirating is not equivalent to stealing, then hosting illegal content will always be analogous to the black market where stolen physical goods can be gotten.

The lack of existence of free access does not hamper your freedom of speech, except when such content was derived from tax funded sources (and therefore it is free of any copyright, at least in the US). The forceful blocking of access to legal content, outside of a "paywall," does hamper free speech. In the US, pirating deals with the former and not the ladder, and outside of the US it's a far murkier subject when considering that the majority of nations do not have freedom of speech defined in their own constitutions.

As for the actual discussion at hand: it's simply not realistic to block all pirated content from being listed on any search engine. It's a never ending battle that cannot be won shy of the search engine having literally all pirated content to filter against, which is itself unrealistic, as fresh content is created every moment.

People want it blocked because those that are really pirating content are unlikely to be using search engines to do it. Those that do not pirate likely think that it sounds nice, and they probably believe that it would actually do something to stop pirating.

Ad Man Gamer said,

Stating that copyright is not a free speech issue is rather ignorant when it comes to the overall picture.

...

Both are ideas, and that is the main thing that free speech is meant to protect. It isn't just about being free to say what you want, it is about being able to express the ideas that you want and for ideas to freely flow from one another. This means not just limiting the distribution of an idea to an elite few who have the money to do so.

Movies are not ideas. Movies express ideas, but they ARE NOT ideas. Movies have incredibly high production costs. You could argue that they are immorally high, but it's the profit potential that motivates corporations to make blockbusters like The Avengers, The Hobbit and others. Movies (and software) are the most extreme examples, but the argument holds for most intellectual property. If the content generators don't see a potential for extreme profit, they will not put in extreme effort.

You are free to express whatever ideas you want to your North Korean friends that you're so worried about. Nobody's preventing you from writing an article explaining that with great power comes great responsibility. They are, however, preventing you from distributing somebody else's work on the subject, which the creators are hoping to make more profit from. Profit that they were counting on when they made the movie in the first place. Profit they expect when they plan new movies.

Freedom of expression protects the rights of the expresser. In the case of a movie, the evil corporation that produces and defends their rights to the movie are the protected expressers. The guy that posts a link to a free download site is (at the most defensible) a plagiarizer. Equivocating between anything that can be converted to digital data and "ideas" is the ignorant move here...

I can't find a link anywhere in the research that says the "majority" of citizens want to block ANYTHING, quite the opposite in fact.

The actual research doco starts off saying

NEARLY HALF OF ADULTS IN THE US AND IN GERMANY participate in a broad, informal “copy culture,” characterized by the copying, sharing, and downloading of music, movies, TV shows, and other digital media. Among young adults, the number is 70%.

nohone said,
Third, Google started doing this a while ago, hiding content from searches that return well known pirating sites. People seem to be getting along OK without it.

This is a misleading statement. Google has processes in place for due diligence, more of a legal requirement than anything else. Copyright holders can request results are removed from searches - which is mentioned in the article. It is essentially why google can survive linking directly to 'illegal' content, and the piratebay cannot. Google processes take down requests.
They do not, however block domains from appearing in results. for example TPB and many other torrent sites appear quite happily in results. TPB is blocked on certain ISPs here in the UK, but I can still pull up the google cache of a page and use a magnet link just fine.

Ironically, Bing for some time was blocking certain domains (e.g. TPB) from appearing in its search results and was criticised for it.