FORTUNE -- Here's something that just about all of us other than the copyright lobby and certain policymakers already know: People looking for pirated content don't often use search engines to find it.
The copyright industries have long targeted Google (GOOG) and other search engines for directing people to illicit copies of movies and music. But that's not because search engines do a lot of the directing, it's because they make for an easy target, according to a new report titled "The Search Fixation: Infringement, Search Results, and Online Content" by Matt Schruers of the Computer and Communications Industry Association, a group that advocates for open systems and fair competition. (Update: the CCIA, it should be noted, counts Google, Facebook, and other interested parties among its members.)
The report targets in particular a "report card" issued in February by the Recording Industry Association of America that pinned blame for the piracy problem on Google. Six months after Google pledged to tweak its search algorithm to put sites that received a lot of DMCA takedown notices lower in its results, the RIAA declared that there was "no evidence that Google's policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy," the RIAA wrote in its report card. "These sites consistently appear at the top of Google's search results for popular songs or artists."
Even if that's the case (which is dubious to begin with), it doesn't mean that many people are using Google to find pirated songs. The CCIA's report indicates that only about 8% of traffic to sites offering pirated material comes via Google. And of that, about one in five searches include the name of a pirate site alongside the song or artist, meaning those users had a particular destination in mind before they ran the search.
Sites like Pirate Bay and isoHunt have repeatedly said they don't get much traffic from search engines. IsoHunt says it's less than 25% and has claimed it would survive even if it got no traffic from search.
Those numbers don't tell the whole story. At least some and probably a good number of people first learn of particular pirate sites via search engines. Once they know about them, they go there directly. But that doesn't come anywhere close to making Google responsible for piracy. The report indicates that, in recent years, anyway, most people direct themselves to pirate sites, or are directed there through social media.
"Search results may receive disproportionate attention, however, because they are easily tested," notes the CCIA report. It's impossible to track all the various ways people discover and get to pirate sites, but it's easy to point to the results of a Google search and say: "See? Piracy!"
Research conducted by the company indicates that its service not only dissuades illicit downloads of music, it helps increase sales.
FORTUNE -- With the streaming-music business taking heavy fire lately for supposedly underpaying musicians, Spotify has issued research that it says proves that its streaming service reduces piracy.
The report, "Adventures in the Netherlands: Spotify, Piracy, and the new Dutch Experience," indicates that between 2008 and 2012, the percentage of people age MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Jul 19, 2013 1:09 PM ET
How an indie director made a movie, sent it to festivals, got it on the Web, and watched video pirates hijack her work.
By Roger Parloff, senior editor
FORTUNE -- In late 2006, Ellen Seidler, a Harvard-educated filmmaker, journalist, and journalism teacher, decided to make a feature movie with a friend, Megan Siler, a UCLA film school grad. Called And Then Came Lola, it was an homage to a German independent MOREJul 11, 2012 5:00 AM ET
Kim Dotcom's business facilitated more online piracy than the mind can conceive. Yet it might have been legal. How did we get here? Is there any way out?
By Roger Parloff, senior editor
FORTUNE -- In a climate-controlled warehouse in Harrisonburg, Va., 1,103 computer servers, each equipped with 24 hard drives, are piled in 120 stacks awaiting a federal judge's decision about what to do with them. Together, they store more MOREJul 11, 2012 5:00 AM ET
The major film studios think they've found a way to sell and deliver movies online. Will consumers buy it?
By Robert Levine, contributor
FORTUNE -- Consumers who recently purchased Warner Brothers' final Harry Potter film on DVD or Blu-ray found a surprise in the package: a digital copy of the movie in the new UltraViolet format. Although the name is not yet familiar, UltraViolet represents Hollywood's first step into the cloud MOREFeb 3, 2012 5:00 AM ET
|Military retirees: You betrayed us, Congress|
|Instagram launches direct messaging|
|I work 4 jobs and I'm still struggling|
|Stocks sink as disappointing December continues|
|Ford set for most aggressive expansion in 50 years|