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Piracy Your Rights Online

Google Looks To Cut Funds To Illegal Sites 347

Posted by samzenpus
from the drying-up-the-well dept.
rbrandis writes "Google is in discussions with payment companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to put illegal download websites out of existence by cutting off their funding. If Google goes ahead with the radical move, it would not mark the first time that illegal websites have been diminished or driven out of business by having a block put on their source of money."
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Google Looks To Cut Funds To Illegal Sites

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:08PM (#42936509)

    Thanks Google/banks for killing your own model and building the strength of your sucessor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Goaway (82658)

      Thanks to bitcoin, people can exercise their freedom to get rich off other people's hard work!

      • by amiga3D (567632) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:21PM (#42936637)

        Don't worry, the RIAA are going to sue them for patent infringement.

        • by sg_oneill (159032)

          In bitcoins defense its almost singlehandedly invented the genre of schadenfreude based financial humor.

          "Hey guys I've put my entire life savings into bitcoin"
          *someone posts "sell now!" on a forum and life savings instantly lose 4/5 of its value.

          A wise man once said "Comedy on the internet is defined as tragedy , and the words "and then I lost my bitcoins""

      • by Artraze (600366) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:40PM (#42936871)

        Once upon a time there was this thing "innocent until proven guilty" which meant that stuff wasn't declared in violation of the law until that violation was argued and confirmed. People had a right to a defense. Think that's going to happen here? Or is this going to be 'shoot first, ask questions never' like the rest of internet enforcement? How many fair use sites will just have their money stolen from them (usually when these sorts of decisions happen, they also take any owed money for the last payment period... usually a month) without any ability to argue their case?

        Also, keep in mind that 'illegal' in these sorts of cases very often means more like 'things we don't like' and will intentionally sweep up any not-even-gray zone stuff that they don't want to deal with. Hosting an image board / cloud storage / video share? Except to be black listed the moment some troll posts something illegal no matter how fast the mods pull it down or even if you comply with the DMCA.

        (And if you don't believe me, see how funding was cut for WikiLeaks, despite the fact that publishing classified material is not a crime. Publishing certain secrets can be, but was that proven before funding was cut? Nope. As I understand it, despite their best efforts, they still have yet to find anything illegal about WikiLeaks's behavior.)

        • by BasilBrush (643681) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:46PM (#42936931)

          "innocent until proven guilty" only ever applied to criminal law. This is civil law at best. But more probably not even that. Visa and the other credit companies don't have to do business with any particular merchant. They are free to chose who to do business with and who not to.

          The danger here, and not a legal one but a moral one, is that it may be that Visa and the other credit companies trust Google to tell them who not to do business with. I don't think Google have proven themselves to be trustworthy enough to make such decisions. And the scale of their operation suggests they might automate it. Not good.

    • by sirwired (27582) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:32PM (#42936769)

      If BitCoin becomes the "currency" of choice for the "underground economy" (a position for which it is well suited... about the only thing it's well-suited for), I don't think it's going to terrify Google or Visa/MC all that much. They don't WANT that business; it causes too many legal/regulatory hassles.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        It is true that they probably do not like business that comes with to much hassle and trouble. But on the other end, I'm thinking of the banks that do business with criminal organisations likes drug cartels. They are *big* trouble, but also *big* money. As long as the profit is worth the trouble, they will do business with any (-one) criminal. Keep that in mind !

    • by poetmatt (793785) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:36PM (#42936819) Journal

      who/how do you define an "illegal download site"?

      Is this "they host the files", or is this torrent sites that host no files? This matters, as one of those is not even illegal.

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        At that point VISA would have to stop dealing with google. You can easily use it to find torrents.

        • by 0111 1110 (518466)

          I guess it's a case of do as I say not as I do, but it would be great if Visa and Mastercard refused to do business with google due to their illegal activities (torrent searches etc).

    • by horza (87255) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:46PM (#42936933) Homepage

      A think a lot of us didn't take Bitcoin seriously until we saw what happened to Wikileaks. The incredible power of VISA to simply cut off global funding to any entity at a keystroke with zero accountability to anybody. Whereas prior the idea of Bitcoin would be seen as "too much effort", a lot of people could now be pushed into giving it a try.

      Phillip.

        1. We already have anonymous, hard-to-control ways to give people money: we can hand them money. That is why the US government requires large cash transactions to be automatically reported. There is no reason the same could not be done with Bitcoin: sure, you might get away with some illegal Bitcoin transactions, but by using Bitcoin you are basically putting a giant neon sign on your forehead that says, "I am trying to avoid mainstream ways of paying for things!"
        2. Bitcoin cannot support secure offline paym
        • by Linsaran (728833) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:56PM (#42937731) Homepage

          1. At the exchange rate of Bitcoin, a government could simply buy all the currency in the system and ruin it for everyone. It would take a couple hundred million dollars, which is barely blip on the radar compared to the budget of a typical industrialized nation. You would not need to buy all the currency, either; just buying a significant fraction of it would destabilize prices and drive people away.

          First, this requires that people are willing to sell, and if a single entity was buying up Bitcoins at that massive of a scale, you can bet the price (due to demand) would skyrocket. Then if the government effectively 'destroyed' said currency by not reintroducing it to the system, the value of the coins in the system (presuming a stable demand similar to what already exists), would remain high as the supply of coins would be drastically reduced. A government doing something like that would temporarily destabilize the market place, but wouldn't in any significant way impact the long term viability of bitcoins as a currency, if bit coins could bounce back from their 2011 market bubble, then obviously their viabilty as a currency can survive a period of temporary instability.

          The demand for Bitcoin is predicated on the existence of exchanges that allow Bitcoin to be traded for fiat currencies. Those exchanges are easy targets for a government wishing to ban Bitcoin within its borders.

          This would be a much more successful avenue of attack for a government trying to shut down bitcoins, however I think that it would be difficult to completely eradicate conversion between fiat currencies and bitcoins. All it takes is for one government to allow such a conversion to their local fiat currency, and you can convert that to litterally any other currency in the world. Sure it might take more hoops, but I'm sure there are more than a few nations that wouldn't mind some extra influx of value to their currency should a large portion of the world ban digital currency to fiat conversion.

        • I dont see how the government could buy all the bitcoins, there are so many out in the wild now i would think it would be impossible. Bitcoins are formed by miners who then sell them, or buy something or whatever, how exactly is the goverment going to force the miners to sell there bitcoins to them? and even if it was possible, they would need to go back a few years and find all the old ones laying around and thats not likley. Even if they manage to buy all the bitcoins going forward, it would jack up the

      • This is the most important point. The banking system could kill any target by simply refusing to handle their accounts. A generation ago, dealing completely in cash was still realistic; at this point it's a little bit tough to imagine it working at a practical level.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by hedwards (940851)

        We still don't take BTC because it's a glorified Ponzi scheme. The founders make a crapload of money for very little effort and newbies get less and less as more and more people join. What's more because of the fixed maximum number of BTC that can come into existence, you're going to have a deflationary spiral that you can't escape eventually.

        The only people using BTC are people who are too stupid to realize what they're dealing with.

    • by openfrog (897716) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:49PM (#42936957)

      I have mod points, but not finding anyone questioning this source... Have you RTFA? This is The Telegraph! There is no source cited AT ALL. You don't know who said what in which context. Nothing.

      Microsoft has hired the CEO of Burton-Marsteller with the official function of spreading FUD on Google.

      But frankly, this sounds more like this comes from The Onion... Nobody here questions sources anymore?

    • Sucessor? To google? Via bitcoins? I can't come up with a way that works that sounds realistic.
    • by betterunixthanunix (980855) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:51PM (#42936985)
      Bitcoin will always be a fringe currency. What Google is doing is encouraging a return to peer-to-peer filesharing, which I have no problem with.
  • Not a Fan (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jmrieger (2695923) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:09PM (#42936515)
    If it's left up to one Government to determine what is and is not an illegal site, this is ripe for abuse. Or, what if Google decides that a site (lets say, Mega) is illegal, when in fact it's not?
    • Re:Not a Fan (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:21PM (#42936635) Homepage

      Or wikileaks...

    • by Jeng (926980)

      From RTFA it does not look like it is going to be up to just one organization to determine if it is an illegal website.

      • by Rockoon (1252108)
        Yup, it will be a voting block of organizations destroying all the competing ones.
    • It's their search engine/payment mechanism/bank/whatever. They can decide what it is used for. They ARE the law, when it comes to the services that they themselves run. They don't need to ask a court's permission to verify if something is or isn't illegal.

      • To clarify a little for you...

        Google doesn't need a court, government, or anyone else to determine who it can do business with. If it wants to refuse to do (ad) business with download sites, legal or otherwise (or any other kind of site for that matter), it can and should be able to make that call for itself.

        While I detest the idea that 'big brother' can tell me what kinds of sites I can run or view, I just as much detest the idea that 'big brother' can come into my business and tell me I don't have any ch

    • by bwcbwc (601780)

      That's just the tip of the iceberg...Google has its own file sharing services (Google Docs, Google Code). Given the size of Google and the dependency that download sites have on CC payments, this sounds like it goes over the line for anti-trust and anti-competitive conspiracy counter-charges. If I were Visa and MC, I would be very careful about how I approached this, so as not to get roped into a lawsuit.

      If they just share information to turn over to the government, they can probably get away with that - af

    • If it's left up to one Government to determine what is and is not an illegal site,

      Actually, that's the way most laws work:

      In general, sovereign states determine what is and is not illegal within their domain, subject only to their "basic law" (i.e. Constitution) and the ability and willingness of the people to rise up and revolt and the ability and willingness of outside actors (typically other governments, but sometimes people or corporations) to sanction or to go war with the sovereign state if it does something that offends someone.

      Google is hosted in the United States. It does busin

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:10PM (#42936531)

    Google? This is why Bitcoin is necessary. We can't continue having commercial entities controlling the money flow.

    • by amiga3D (567632)

      Seriously why don't we just go back to carrying silver and gold?

      • by Jeng (926980)

        Nothing is really stopping you from conducting your day to day business with precious metals, it will just be a pain in the ass getting most companies to accept them.

    • We can't continue having commercial entities controlling the money flow.

      They never have. Long before some anarchist fringe elements in the crypto world dreamed of Bitcoin, people were using this technology:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paper_money [wikipedia.org]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:11PM (#42936541)

    Who decides what website is illegal? A website that may be deemed illegal in one country may not be in another.
    This was the case with WikiLeaks and how their funding was diminished. The same would be the case with phone unlocking sites fro example.

  • youtube (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the_Bionic_lemming (446569) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:17PM (#42936591)

    Isn't Google making money via advertising on youtube with all the posted videos that are infringing on copyrights?

  • One word: Bitcoin (Score:2, Interesting)

    by carlhaagen (1021273)
    This is a very dangerous road Google is heading down on. Let's just see what happens.
    • Re:One word: Bitcoin (Score:4, Interesting)

      by MetalliQaZ (539913) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:22PM (#42936649)

      And the site you use to convert your dollars to bitcoin will be illegal. What then?

      • The more they push for control the more things slip through their fingers. It is a fight they can't win. Yes, they can make bitcoin illegal, but sooner or later it will be replaced for something even harder to shut down.
    • by Empiric (675968)

      Yes, but something has to be done. Next thing you know, these sites offering easy access to all this content they don't own, will be enhanced to become increasingly convenient--starting with putting in a search box and who knows, perhaps even further profiting from this illicit benefit from others' work by, say, something so egregious as putting their own advertisements on the pages. Probably they could even talk a large cross-section of business into using this "search engine to others' content" (to coin

  • I can think of at least three ways to get around this. And if I can, then you can bet people who've dedicated themselves to doing this have found at least fifty.

    1. Useless purchases: You get a download link in the "Thank you" email for purchasing a useless app in the Android store or some other commonly used HTML/JS/Flash widget. If the company owns the product, it will seem like a genuine purchase for something else.
    2. Donations to charity: Some out-of-the-way place has hapless children that need medical care
  • by wfstanle (1188751) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:21PM (#42936641)

    Cutting off funding should not be decided by business, the courts should make that decision. Garnted, the operators of such a website may be scumbags but they still deserve their day in court.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Tell that to Wikileaks and its Visa/Mastercard friends... Google may have the best of the intentions but this opens the road for extra-judicial rulings.

      I hope judges strike Google & friends very hard if one of these "illegal" websites sue them.
  • by fermion (181285) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:25PM (#42936669) Homepage Journal
    I really wonder how much Google makes from these sites. It seems to me as powerful as google is, they could significantly disable these sites simply by not accepted revenue, modifying the search results to demote them, and punish sites who link to these sites.

    For many searches, I still get results that put link and ad farms at the top, while those that are more likely to give original information are demoted.

    To me this looks like Google is trying to make sure that if it can't make money on something, no one can. I don't see why it has the right to go out and strong arm other private companies. if something is illegal, let the law take care of it. If Google wants to make the world a better place, start by trying to do so good, instead of just avoiding evil.

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@NoSpAM.gmail.com> on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:06PM (#42937147) Journal

      To me this looks like Google is trying to make sure that if it can't make money on something, no one can. I don't see why it has the right to go out and strong arm other private companies.

      Because they can.

      This is economic power, libertarians. It's a real thing. If you were running a search-dependent company Google was targeting, would you survive until a popular Google competitor arises? And they're not doing this under direct legal threat, they could just as easily cut companies off for business or even personal reasons.

  • by 1u3hr (530656) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:28PM (#42936713)
    From TFA:

    the plans, still in discussion, would also block funding to websites that do not respond to legal challenges, for example because they are offshore.

    So, if the "legal challenges" have a basis in fact, why not use existing laws? Sounds like a mechanism to make American laws apply to everyone in the world. And they don't even have to prove guilt, just send a threat from a lawyer, which is rightfully ignored, then Google pulls the plug on the site's income, site erased.

    • [Vogon Captain] All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, and so you've had plenty of time to lodge any complaints and it's far too late to make a fuss about it now!

      (ANGRY SHOUTING)

      [Vogon Captain] What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven's sake, mankind! It's only four light years away, you know! I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affair
  • by concealment (2447304) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:29PM (#42936727) Homepage Journal

    I think this could be great, and have unintended consequences that end up strengthening piracy.

    By driving out the for-profit pirates, you restore it to the hobbyists, who tend to have high standards and be somewhat fanatical.

    This will probably damage piracy of the vapid "big media" movies, music, etc. but will enhance piracy of niche markets and specialty genres, which will strengthen those through the "try before buy" principle among those who are likely to buy them anyway, if they like them.

    Google's policies have already somewhat achieved this model. Some of the best piracy for music at least is through Youtube these days. They take down the big acts, but you can find lots of obscure and older material (full albums) with a simple search.

    In many ways, this is the resolution between pirates and industry. Industry gets to protect its big money makers, which if pirated result in a loss of profits because they are only purchased for a short term (novelty value). Pirates get access to the vast breadth of information available that isn't in that single protected category.

  • Stupid move (Score:5, Insightful)

    by king neckbeard (1801738) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:31PM (#42936747)
    Giving in to RIAA thugs won't make them demand any less, but will instead make them see themselves entitled to that and more. Google shouldn't be rubbing their back, they should be bloodying their noses.
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Monday February 18, 2013 @01:37PM (#42936849)
    So I take it that Youtube will be cut off then?
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Gotta admit, I liked this when I read the headline, but was disappointed when I saw that this is targeted at media sharing and cites Wikileaks. Was really hoping Google was finally following the money in the anti-spam/malware fight. Oh well.

  • by jd659 (2730387) on Monday February 18, 2013 @02:26PM (#42937409)
    From TFA: “In 2011, Visa, Mastercard and PayPal, cut off all donations to WikiLeaks, the controversial website headed by Julian Assange”

    If assisting with cutting off funds to sites like Wikileaks is what Google is intending to do, this can set a very bad precedence. While WikiLeaks is controversial, it is not be illegal. It hasn’t been even charged with any crime. But let’s say it does get charged with some random US law from 1918 and, in the court of law, is pronounced to be “illegal” in the US, does it mean the funds will be cut off to Wikileaks globally? What if the Wikileaks is based in Sweden and I live in Norway, would I be able to give funds to Wikileaks? Would Google prevent me in any way? How far would this ban go?

    What if Iran sued New York Times and declared it to be illegal. Should Google then prevent the transfer of funds to New York Times because it was found to be illegal there? If Google decides to have different blocking policies based on the geographical location of the user, this can lead to breaking up the internet. Besides, we know there are plenty of technologies that allow users to spoof/change the location on the web. Will banning VPN and Tor be the next big thing?

    --
    There’s no such thing as “illegal download”
  • How can you tell which sites are illegal?

    What about sites that are illegal in some countries and not others based on differing laws?

    Have you thought this through?

  • Google is in discussions with payment companies including Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to put illegal download websites out of existence by cutting off their funding.

    A person's actions are not illegal until they are found guilty. That is a cornerstone principle of our law; presumption of innocence. A few corporations proclaiming something illegal does not make it so. Having our monetary system in the hands of a few relatively unregulated oligarchs is perilous.

    • by mark-t (151149)

      A person's actions are not illegal until they are found guilty.

      You realize that this is the same thing as saying that it's entirely legal to do things like kill people and rob banks, as long as you don't get caught, right? (because if you're not caught, then there's no possible way you can be found guilty).

      • by Joe U (443617)

        Trial in absentia is the first thing that comes to mind.

      • by Algae_94 (2017070)
        Seems the GP's argument needs to be modified. "A person's actions can not be punished until they are found guilty". This does indeed say that if someone kills people and robs banks, but gets away with it, they will not be punished (the actions are still illegal).
  • So this is different from vigilante justice how?
  • by morcego (260031) on Monday February 18, 2013 @04:18PM (#42938409)

    Google? Visa? RIAA/MPAA?

    Or is Google going to cut funds to sites AFTER they are ruled illegal in a court of law?

    The real problem is WHO IS GOING TO DECIDE. There is where freedom dies.

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