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Google Fighting Piracy With Search Result Demoting

By - Source: Google | B 36 comments

Google is tackling piracy by demoting websites based on the number of takedown notices they receive.

Amit Singhal, Google's SVP of Engineering, said that starting this week, the company will implement an update in the search algorithms that will place sites related to piracy lower on the list -- a demoting, so to speak. The ranking will be based on the number of valid copyright removal notices Google receives for any given website, and should help Web surfers find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily, pushing Spotify, Hulu and others to the top.

For years copyright owners have demanded that Google completely block websites linked to pirated material from showing up in search results. Google typically blocks links to the actual illegal content, not the websites themselves. The new change reflects its current stance, pushing violators down the search results ladder rather than nuking the links entirely.

"Since we re-booted our copyright removals over two years ago, we’ve been given much more data by copyright owners about infringing content online," Singhal said in a blog on Friday. "In fact, we’re now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in all of 2009—more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone. We will now be using this data as a signal in our search rankings."

Google doesn't determine whether a website has infringed on copyrights -- that's left up to copyright holders and the legal system. That said, Google won't remove any pages from search results unless the company receives a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner.

"And we’ll continue to provide 'counter-notice' tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated," he added. "We’ll also continue to be transparent about copyright removals."

Naturally Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, applauds what's believed to be Google's most significant anti-piracy measure yet.

"Today Google has announced a potentially significant change in its search rankings that can make a meaningful difference to creators," Sherman said in a news release. "This change is an important step in the right direction -- a step we've been urging Google to take for a long time -- and we commend the company for its action."

Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America doesn't seem quite so enthusiastic, but remains positive with the efforts nonetheless.

"We are optimistic that Google’s actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe," he said in a brief press release (pdf) "We will be watching this development closely -- the devil is always in the details -- and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves."

Electronic Frontier Foundation staff attorney Julie Samuels called Google's process opaque and highlighted a number of unanswered questions such as what constitutes as a high number of removal notices, and how Google determines the ranking based on those numbers.

"Takedown requests are nothing more than accusations of copyright infringement," Samuels said. "No court or other umpire confirms that the accusations are valid (although copyright owners can be liable for bad-faith accusations). Demoting search results – effectively telling the searcher that these are not the websites you’re looking for – based on accusations alone gives copyright owners one more bit of control over what we see, hear, and read."

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  • 14 Hide
    mrmaia , August 13, 2012 4:28 PM
    lol is Youtube included in this demoting?

    And whoever Googles to find pirated stuff will likely put in "torrent", "cracked" or whatever in their searches - which the legit sites don't have and so they won't show up in the top results anyway.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , August 13, 2012 4:23 PM
    The real hilarity is the potential this has for abuse. 'Legitimate' take down notices go out all the time that later turn out to be fraudulent, even one that come from companies like BMG. Look at the controversy surrounding that Megaupload video a year or two back. The record label had zero grounds, but youtube took it down as it was a 'legitimate' takedown notice. and had to put it right back up again when it turned out to not be 'legitimate' at all.
  • 10 Hide
    gm0n3y , August 13, 2012 5:55 PM
    So they are demoting content based on removal requests? That is ridiculous. If I run a website what's to stop me from filing a bunch of removal requests against my main competitors to lower their search rankings? The potential for abuse here is high. Now if they only downranked confirmed cases of copyright abuse where the offender admitted guilt or lost the case in court, then this would make sense.
Other Comments
  • 9 Hide
    bustapr , August 13, 2012 3:41 PM
    this wont be of much help against piracy. anyone whos serious about pirating music would find a way, even if it takes them a bit longer. or they would just use another search engine.

    I fear this will be of more danger to forums that allow users to easily make topics. Like Ultimate-Guitar. people posts tons of guitar covers there every day. are they gonna block the most used guitar website that uses google adsense and sells apps on google play?
  • 1 Hide
    bustapr , August 13, 2012 3:45 PM
    *sorry for DP.

    also, I highly doubt they would make it harder to search the holy grail of piracy, Youtube.
  • 5 Hide
    wiinippongamer , August 13, 2012 4:01 PM
    When people search for piracy they usually do so on specific sites anyways so this won't change anything.
  • 2 Hide
    Netherscourge , August 13, 2012 4:17 PM
    It should help deter "mainstream pirates" though.

    Hardcore pirates don't even use Google to find their stuff. It's the casual, mainstream people who are generally ignorant and lazy to begin with who will be most affected by semi-filtered Google results.
  • -9 Hide
    jl0329 , August 13, 2012 4:19 PM
    I am sure piracy is coming to an end because of this.

    On the other hand, the advertisement linked words in these articles are ridiculously annoying.
  • 12 Hide
    Anonymous , August 13, 2012 4:23 PM
    The real hilarity is the potential this has for abuse. 'Legitimate' take down notices go out all the time that later turn out to be fraudulent, even one that come from companies like BMG. Look at the controversy surrounding that Megaupload video a year or two back. The record label had zero grounds, but youtube took it down as it was a 'legitimate' takedown notice. and had to put it right back up again when it turned out to not be 'legitimate' at all.
  • 1 Hide
    Flareside , August 13, 2012 4:26 PM
    I agree with wiini on this. Mostpeople who pirate already have thier group of sites they use and this will not really prevent it from happening. I can see it helping prevent a casual user from starting down that road though.

    Flare
  • 14 Hide
    mrmaia , August 13, 2012 4:28 PM
    lol is Youtube included in this demoting?

    And whoever Googles to find pirated stuff will likely put in "torrent", "cracked" or whatever in their searches - which the legit sites don't have and so they won't show up in the top results anyway.
  • 0 Hide
    rantoc , August 13, 2012 4:39 PM
    Will likely do some good vs the casual pirate but it wont change anything with the "established" pirates, they use other tools than Google.

    This is very general but this is how i see it:
    Scene = Private FTP's
    Normal Pirates = Invite only FTP + Invite only Torrent and in some cases invite only DC and irc channels.
    Casual Pirates = Open known torrent sites and goggling.

    mrmaia: Good point - Google being fair and demote their own Youtube each time they take down a vid from their site, its a corp - Its all about the money and there is the answer!
  • 2 Hide
    Anonymous , August 13, 2012 4:45 PM
    "The ranking will be based on the number of valid copyright removal notices Google receives for any given website"

    Guess Youtube will be at the bottom of the list. They wouldn't give themselves special consideration would they?
  • 5 Hide
    kinggraves , August 13, 2012 4:53 PM
    What the industry fails to realize is that all this accomplishes is pushing people to other search engines that they don't have control over rather than the one they do. People don't -have- to use Google search. You're plugging up one hole in a ship full of holes.
  • 6 Hide
    ohim , August 13, 2012 4:55 PM
    Seeing 50 cent on mountains of dollars makes me cry when i know there are ppl out there pirating stuff .. not to mention the ridiculous luxury of hollywood ... what i wanted to say is that this kind of actions only protect the very rich.
  • 1 Hide
    dxwarlock , August 13, 2012 5:21 PM
    Not to sound condescending..but who uses Google as a serious source to find scene release software?
    The net result will be next to none in help stopping it. Anyone that pirates enough for it to be a problem don't 'google' for a link.
    The most it will do is stop the grandma's looking for willy nelson songs, and looking for a full version of Desktop Buddy to install so they can see all the animations he has.
  • 10 Hide
    Pherule , August 13, 2012 5:31 PM
    Bad move by Google. They're slowly caving into the pressure I see. Not all torrents are pirated software. A good deal of Open Source software is distributed via torrent, for instance.

    For all the pirates out there, once all the torrent sites are eventually taken down, Copyright VS Piracy: Copyright loses, pirates win.
    https://rt.com/usa/news/internet-war-new-tribler-941/
  • 2 Hide
    azraa , August 13, 2012 5:38 PM
    Ah.. search engines. Now they will deviate our eyes from the things they do not want us to see. Do I hear the foundations of the internet dying? Is that just me?

    Bad move, Google
  • 10 Hide
    gm0n3y , August 13, 2012 5:55 PM
    So they are demoting content based on removal requests? That is ridiculous. If I run a website what's to stop me from filing a bunch of removal requests against my main competitors to lower their search rankings? The potential for abuse here is high. Now if they only downranked confirmed cases of copyright abuse where the offender admitted guilt or lost the case in court, then this would make sense.
  • 3 Hide
    JOSHSKORN , August 13, 2012 6:05 PM
    They might want to get rid of junky websites that come up in search results, someday...
  • -3 Hide
    vittau , August 13, 2012 6:24 PM
    gm0n3ySo they are demoting content based on removal requests? That is ridiculous. If I run a website what's to stop me from filing a bunch of removal requests against my main competitors to lower their search rankings? The potential for abuse here is high. Now if they only downranked confirmed cases of copyright abuse where the offender admitted guilt or lost the case in court, then this would make sense.


    "That said, Google won't remove any pages from search results unless the company receives a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner."
  • 1 Hide
    dormantreign , August 13, 2012 6:32 PM
    Got to say, i'm starting to not like google, But what other search providers are there? Anyone using another one that is better then google?
  • 5 Hide
    Gundam288 , August 13, 2012 6:32 PM
    So people are going to use Yahoo or some other search engine. nothing really big other than seeing google's search requests dip a bit.

    But, this looks like it could hurt legit websites if they were at one point in time out of complance with a take down request. I guess we will see how this plays out.

    Even if google and the other search engines shut down tomorrow, it wouldn't kill piracy. Hurt it? yes. Kill it? nope.
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