What the Google?

The search engine alters its auto-complete function to make it more difficult to find torrents. Has the internet piracy fight just got more serious? No, probably not.

There are two sides to the filesharing argument. On the one hand, it is a little surprising to walk into a shop, and still find a CD costing in excess of £12. What do the powers that be expect? For us to carry on paying such an extortionate price, regardless of whether we can get a pretty decent imitation for free?

Then again, someone has toiled hard to create that release. And we can never forget that. Behind the platinum selling stars that may well become relics of a bygone era, there is an industry full of people who predominantly don’t earn that much money. From studio-hands to mic operators, roadies and technicians, they all need to work, and we need to pay for their product to keep them in a job.

Anyone with an active interest in this debate has by now picked a team, and taken to the ramparts. Law cases have ensued, and, though more often than not they have later collapsed, you’d have to be a complete recluse not to realise that the tables are gradually turning in favour of record labels, movie producers and their colleagues. Service providers can restrict broadband speeds to restrict downloads, and now the world’s favourite search engine has been forced to act (albeit in the most minor way imaginable).

Anyone who’s actively aware of the ‘auto complete’ function on Google’s search bar may well have noticed that, for all queries that begin with TORR, this facility is no longer available. That means lackadaisically searching for torrents is off the cards tonight. Just don’t ask what happens if someone decides to type in the remaining letters of the word, because the answer is the same as it ever was. They press enter, and the web-guide does its job by sorting the best results for you. In short, this is really just a piecemeal offering.

Whatever you make of the move, in reality it’s probably not going to improve the situation for anyone currently falling foul of online piracy. But it is interesting to see Google offering to do this, and, more importantly perhaps, asks further questions about how much influence the information gatekeeper is willing to have impacted on it by outside parties. Times are changing, suggesting the next few years will be critical if losses are to be recouped, and fortunes turned about.