Google might have to filter piracy-related searches in France

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Google might be required to filter filesharing-related search terms in France, pending a decision by the nation's Court of Appeal. In early 2010, French recording industry group SNEP sought legal action in an effort to have terms like "torrent," "Rapidshare" and "Megaupload" censored from the search provider's "Autocomplete" and "Instant" features -- a move made in the United States and other countries over a year ago.

Autocomplete tries to predict your search in real-time and provides suggested queries, while Instant automatically displays predicted results as you type. In both cases, organizations like SNEP argue that Google aids piracy. In one example noted by TorrentFreak, if a user types the name of a popular artist, the search engine might recommend piracy-related keywords, making it easier for them to find illegal content.

After failing to convince two lower courts, the French music group succeeded in the country's Supreme Court, which ruled that censoring keywords is a suitable approach to reducing online piracy. Although the Court determined that Google can't be held liable for infringements that occur on sites listed in its search results, it believes the company has a responsibility to make it harder for users to discover illegal material.

Filtering search terms such as "Pirate Bay" has proved to be effective in reducing the number of queries pertaining to the censored words, but it's hard to determine if this causes any quantifiable change in behavior. While Pirate Bay Google searches have been halved in some instances since last November, the torrent site said it hasn't been hurt by the change and it receives the same amount of traffic from Google.

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