Google begins relegating pirated content in search rankings

31-08-2012

Google has begun modifying its algorithms to relegate websites in its search rankings that are subject to high numbers of “valid copyright removal requests”.

Coming amid increasing requests to remove pirated content, Google said in a blog post that the changes will help Internet users find legitimate and quality material more easily. It has not explained what constitutes a “valid” request.

According to Amit Singhal, senior vice president of engineering at Google, the company was asked to remove more than 4.4 million URLs in the 30 days up to August 10, 2012. “We will now be using this data as a signal in our search rankings,” he said.

But Google has admitted that YouTube, which it owns, will not be affected by the changes.

In the past Google has typically blocked links to alleged illegal content, but not the websites themselves. Singhal said in the blog post that only the courts can decide whether sites violate copyright law or not.

While there are around 200 other signals affecting search results, the recording and movie industry have welcomed the move, saying it is something they have urged Google to do for a long time.

“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, P2P sites and other outlaw enterprises,” said Michael O’Leary, vice president for global policy and external affairs of the Motion Picture Association of America.

But pointing to the need for more clarity on Google’s new approach he said “the devil is always in the detail”.

Cary Sherman, chief executive of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), added that “this is not the only approach” and “there are many more actions we hope Google will take”.

In July and August, the RIAA demanded that Google must remove almost 850,000 links, more than any other copyright owner. The two most common sites subject to removal requests in the same period were file-sharing sites filestube.com and downloads.nl.

Google’s new approach raises questions about how it might manipulate search results around other sites in the future. Some commentators have remained cautious, saying Google should not interfere too greatly with its users’ preferences.</>

This article was first published on 01 September 2012 in World IP Review

google, RIAA, piracy links, mpaa, youtube

Trademarks and Brands Online