The land of 100,000 lawsuits

Some enterprising anonymous researcher has determined that almost 100,000 copyright infringement lawsuits have been filed in the U.S. in the past year:

In the United States the judicial system is currently being overloaded with new cases, but the scope of the issue was never really clear until now. An anonymous TorrentFreak reader has spent months compiling a complete overview of all the mass P2P lawsuits that have been filed in the US since the beginning of 2010, listing all the relevant case documents and people involved in a giant spreadsheet.

The research shows that between 8th January 2010 and 21st January 2011, a total of 99,924 individuals have been sued. The vast majority of the defendants have allegedly used BitTorrent to share copyrighted works but a few hundred ed2k users are also included.

Of the 80 cases that were filed originally, 68 are still active, with 70,914 defendants still in jeopardy.

The raw data is available is spreadsheet form over on Google Docs.

As the disparity between 80 and 70,914 indicates, these types of lawsuits completely overwhelm the courts.  The U.S. justice system is simply not set up to handle this kind of volume, especially for suits as notoriously tricky to argue as copyright infringement.

Find (if ye know how to seek)

It’s a few days old now, but I just ran across a post over on TorrentFreak describing how Google has started removing “torrent”-related results from its auto-complete search results:

Without a public notice Google has compiled a seemingly arbitrary list of keywords for which auto-complete is no longer available. Although the impact of this decision does not currently affect full search results, it does send out a strong signal that Google is willing to censor its services proactively, and to an extent that is far greater than many expected.

Among the list of forbidden keywords are “uTorrent”, a hugely popular piece of entirely legal software and “BitTorrent”, a file transfer protocol and the name of San Fransisco based company BitTorrent Inc. As of today [1/26/2011], these keywords will no longer be suggested by Google when you type in the first letter, nor will they show up in Google Instant.

All combinations of the word “torrent” are also completely banned. This means that “Ubuntu torrent” will not be suggested as a user types in Ubuntu, and the same happens to every other combination ending in the word torrent. This of course includes the titles of popular films and music albums, which is the purpose of Google’s banlist.

This is quite an interesting development.  Personally, I have found Google’s auto-complete functionality very helpful in finding the names of half-remembered items.  It is a disturbing reminder of just how much control Google exerts–not only over what we find, but over what we search for.