matt brittin googleGoogle’s Matt Brittin delivered a keynote to industry execs here in Edinburgh this morning, extolling the virtues of YouTube and how it can be a strong partner for the television business. The president of EMEA business and operations pointed to the 24M subscribers FremantleMedia’s channel has and said The X Factor channel gets 1.1B views a month, with 75% outside the country of origin. He also talked up Jimmy Kimmel Live’s Mean Tweets as an example of a TV show reaching into the web to extend its brand. But he was forced at one point to defend Google’s reach in a different area when David Garrett, CEO of Mister Smith Entertainment, chimed in from the audience that the search giant was “helping to fuel the piracy business.”

During the Q&A portion of the panel, Smith said: “You are fantastic at helping people find things and you’re also very good at encouraging people to, I guess, expect things for free. I work in a business providing high-end premium content, the film business. Now, I don’t think we can expect you to police all the content on your system. But you’re very good at helping people find pirate web sites. More than that, your wonderful Google ad algorithms are very good at putting advertising and banners on these pirate websites. So in fact you are helping to fuel the piracy business. I would love to know a little bit more about what you’re doing to police that and discourage that because at the moment you are actually funding the destruction.”

Brittin replied that he disagreed “with the assertion that we are funding pirates, but I take your point.”

He then outlined what Google has been doing to discourage illegal websites. He pointed to Content ID, which allows copyright owners to find copies of their content. “Even if someone shot a few minutes of shaky footage in a cinema, you can find that and take it down or leave it up.”

He said that “many, many do choose to leave it up and monetize and learn from that, but so it’s controlled. That’s been a really successful collaboration.”

On search, he said Google is “really trying to find those websites with illegal downloads and take them out of our listings. It’s whack-a-mole and so we have built an expedited process.” The company, he said, takes the sites out of the index and has recently begun “to demote those sites completely out of our rankings.”

The challenge, Brittin continued, comes when the content is on Facebook. “You can’t really take Facebook out of the listings, so how do you solve that?”

On ads, Brittin said, “What we do is try always to choke off the money to stop the pirates and there are ways we can work together to do this. I think it has to be a collaboration, but we have a lot of people working on this and we’ve made a lot of progress in the last four or five years and would love to do more.”

I caught up with Garrett following the discussion and he told me he appreciated Brittin’s reponse, while adding “There’s a lot more to be done. I realize it can be like whack-a-mole, but more of a concrete effort can be done jointly.”