Google accused of hosting 'pirated' movies

Movies include several new releases, watchdog group says

Google is hosting potentially copyrighted videos, including recent full-length movies, concerts, as well as broadcast and cable TV programs on Google Video, a nonprofit group is charging.

The movies include such new releases as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Live Free, Die Hard and Sicko, according to the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), a nonprofit organization in Falls Church, Virginia., that says it is "focused on ethics and accountability in public life and private business."

Earlier this week, the group released a list of what it calls the Top 50 movies, cable programs and music concerts that Google is hosting on Google Video, including Sony Pictures' Hollow Man 2 and several episodes of NBC's The Office.

Computerworld was able to download at least one of the movies referred to by the NLPC.

Google spokesman Gabriel Stricker said that despite its policies requiring that users own the content they post on Google Video, the only way the company can remove potentially copyright-infringing material is if the copyright holder files a formal complaint with Google under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) of 1998.

In part, the DCMA limits Internet service providers from copyright infringement liability for simply transmitting information over the Internet. Service providers, however, are expected to remove material from users' Web sites that appears to constitute copyright infringement.

However, Stricker reiterated that only the legitimate copyright holder can ask Google to remove the material. It was entirely possible, he said, that the copyright holders wanted the content that the NLPC is referring to uploaded to Google Video.

But Stricker said Google is working with copyright holders to develop a system that will automatically alert Google to illegally posted content.

NLPC Chairman Ken Boehm said Google is hiding behind the DCMA by requiring takedown notices.

"Every day we are finding dozens of new movies on Google Video," Boehm said in a statement. "While we [understand] that it's difficult to know for sure whether all of the content is being hosted in violation of copyright laws, it doesn't take a Google mathematician to know that much of this content is being hosted without the copyright owner's knowledge or permission."

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