Google Search to demote pirate content: MPAA “optimistic”

Google has announced changes to its search algorithms designed better to identify legitimate, quality sources of content. Writing in the official Google Search blog, Amit Singhal, SVP, Engineering, says the company aims to provide a great experience for its users and has developed over 200 signals to ensure its search algorithms deliver the best possible results.

“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily – whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify,” he wrote.

“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. 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,” he advised.

He pointed out that only copyright holders know if something is authorised, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed. “Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law. So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive 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. We’ll also continue to be transparent about copyright removals,” he confirmed.

Michael O’Leary, Senior Executive Vice President for Global Policy and External Affairs of the Motion Picture Association of America ((MPAA), said the body was “optimistic” that Google’s actions would 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. “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 favour legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves,” he stated.

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