© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If insanity truly is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, the current system for fighting copyright infringement is wearing a straight jacket and staring at rubber walls.

The DMCA takedown notice system has for some time been seen as an increasingly futile fight for creators and organizations trying to protect their intellectual property, as the British Phonographic Institute’s (BPI) latest figures clearly demonstrate.

The BPI has now filed in excess of 100 million takedown notices over the system’s 16 year history. The only positive it can take from this, aside from proving that it isn’t resting on its laurels. But the BPI is working harder, not smarter, and through no fault of its own it is simply spinning its wheels. The same is true of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), which along with the BPI is right at the top of the charts for tenaciously trying to keep content flowing through only legitimate, licensed channels. The RIAA also passed 25 million takedowns this week,

The fault here lies not with the administrators but in the system itself, which is no longer fit for purpose. The pirates have got smarter and more effective at quickly circumventing DMCA takedowns, while the system has essentially remained the same.

While Google’s stock response is to claim simple middle man status and preach a need to remain neutral, it is of course far more influential and biased than this explanation allows for.

For starters, search provides the company’s biggest profit center by far, meaning that it has a vested interest in keeping folks coming back for more. Of course there is huge interest in finding content for free, most of it illegal, and Google is usually turning a blind eye to sites that host it. Aside from the occasional blacklisted site like The Pirate Bay or even lyrics directory Rap Genius, sites that flagrantly break U.S. copyright law are frequently listed alongside legitimate digital stores like Amazon and iTunes. Even the most notorious, like the aforementioned Pirate Bay, tend to stay in Google’s results until they step so far across the line that they’re banned around the world.

Moreover, Google even contradicts its supposed “results neutral” excuse by offering searchers suggestions before they complete their query, usually prioritizing illegal options like torrents and free download sites. A search for this year’s popular Disney hit “Frozen.” for example, yields a suggestion to “download Frozen movie for free,” before the free has even been entered into the search box. Here’s just one example of such a search in action:

Google Frozen movie search

Of course users are swayed to what amounts to an enticing offer from Google, which takes them to a page listing several. If that’s not enabling piracy, it’s certainly not the action of an unbiased middle man leading searchers to make their own decisions.

We could continue the constant churn of DMCA takedowns followed by piracy pop ups, aided and abetted by Google’s blindness to illegal activity polluting their search pipes, or we could finally take meaningful . Google’s algorithm changes and associated penalties frequently wipe out search traffic to legitimate businesses, damaging their online visibility and eating into their profits. Would it be so much to ask to extend this enforcement to sites that are unashamedly ripping off the country’s creators?

Unfortunately, for too many years now, the answer from Google has been yes, it would, and we have no intention of changing.