Google’s anti-piracy move in their search results

Google recently made another move in the great fight against piracy by demoting websites based on the number of valid dmca removal notices they receive.

Amit Singhal, Google’s Senior VP of Engineering, said that the company is implementing an update in the search algorithms that will demote sites related to piracy lower down in search results. The ranking will be based on the number of valid dmca removal notices Google receives for any particular site, and if a sufficient amount is received based on Google’s determination, it will knock the site lower in results pages. This is meant to help users find legitimate content more easily.

For years copyright owners & dmca advocates have demanded that Google completely block websites linked to pirated material from showing up in search results. When questioned why this move took so long, Singhal said “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”. He went on to say “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.”

In Google’s effort to remain somewhat unbiased, they only determine if a site/page is actually infringing, after the copyright holder sends a valid removal request. That said, Google also allows the owner of the allegedly infringing site to file a counter-notice

“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.” This ensures that the system isn’t being abused to remove legitimate sites from being removed out of Google’s listings. Check out Google’s Transparency Report to learn more about the process.

Cary Sherman, CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), 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). He went on to say “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.”

Here at DMCA.pro, we’re excited to hear about positive developments against piracy, and we think this is just another small step toward the great fight.