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RIAA wants to recruit browsers into blocking sites too

Media lobby groups like the MPAA and RIAA in America and the BPI over here in the UK, have been using all sorts of nefarious tactics over the past few years, to try and block sites related to piracy. They've used DMCA takedown requests – that have even targeted their own previous takedown requests – they've got high courts to force ISPs to block sites and now they're trying to get browser companies to block the sites too.

The reasons behind this latest move are obvious: the blocks implemented so far have had no effect on site visitor numbers. Since the earliest block of The Pirate Bay by some of the UK's largest ISPs, the site just changed its domain name and its users began visiting one of thousands of proxy sites that sprang up within days. DMCA requests only affect Google search results too, making no difference to those people that already know the relatively simple domain name of their favourite torrent or download site.

It's all busy work to make these groups, which are funded by major studios and record labels, look like they're doing something worthwhile. Appearing effective is much more important than actually being so, which is why this latest move is being attempted.

RIAA CEO Cary Sherman is set to speak later today, to a House Judiciary Subcommittee about several initiatives that search engines and browser firms can take, Google in particular, since it operates the world's most popular search tool and one of the most popular browsers. One particular thing Sherman wants Google to look into, is using its malicious site warning tool, to also block and warn users about websites that are tagged as containing copyright protected material not authorised for distribution.

Something tells me this would be laughably ineffective

“Or better yet,”he plans to say, “can Google use similar technology to highlight or identify sites that are authorized? Imagine if links to content on legitimate sites were labelled – directly in the search result – with a certification mark indicating that the site is licensed and actually pays royalties to creators. That educational message could have a profound and positive impact on user behavior.”

Maybe he's right about it affecting user behaviour, but since people often prefer to street clear of sites that have obviously paid their way into Google's sponsored results, adding a tag saying that they're in bed with “the man,” may be tantamount to blacklisting a domain for a lot of users – especially the kind that were likely to visit a pirate website in the first place.

It's all much nicer than before however. Instead of trying to leverage power against technology firms, the RIAA is coming on all sweet and suggesting it wants a voluntary partnership with companies like Google, perhaps because it's been unable to achieve its goals of locking down content through legal means. Or rather, it doesn't want to tangle with a company like Google in a court room.

Perhaps as a way to showcase its industry heavy hitter status, the RIAA also wants to talk about an agreement it signed with companies like Disney, Daily Motion, Crackle, Fox, Microsoft, CBS and Veoh back in 2007, to help restrict infringing content. It's hoping to reinvigorate this deal in the coming years, partnering with these firms to help lobby against infringing sites and those that host infringing content. It does however add that it is keen to accommodate “fair use,” though how it will go about that, is unclear.

KitGuru Says: Forcing browser companies to block certain websites, would again, not only be incredibly easy to bypass, but would just make people use a different browser if needed. There's plenty of options out there and as we know from the BPI's targeting of only the largest internet service providers, there's no way the RIAA will go after every browser maker. Hell Torch has a torrent downloader built into the browser itself, but I bet it gets off scot free, therefore completely invalidating any form of block put in place by Google or anyone else. 

[Thanks TorrentFreak for the breakdown]

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