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Google to (further) downrank ‘pirate’ search results

Douglas Crawford

Douglas Crawford

October 21, 2014

Noting that ‘in 2013 we received just over 224 million DMCA requests for Google search results,’ last Friday Google released its latest transparency report (.pdf),

We ultimately removed 222M, which means we rejected or reinstated less than 1% after review because we either needed additional information, were unable to find the page, or concluded that the material was not infringing.

Despite removing 99 percent of the material it was requested to, copyright enforcement bodies continue to harangue Google for not doing enough to prevent copyright piracy, with the likes of European competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia calling Google a ‘platform for piracy’.

In response to such pressure, Google has announced that it will update its search algorithms to further downrank ‘pirate’ search results based on the number of DMCA notices it receives for a given website,

Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.

Google transparency report 2014 top orginizations

As Techdirt observes, this really reflects a failure of copyright owners to effectively optimise their search results, with Google basically just giving up and offering to do it for them.

Other measures Google plans to take include preventing ‘pirate’ terms appearing in auto-complete suggestions, and promoting legal content instead. The changes will be rolled out over the next few weeks.

The elephant in the room, of course, is that copyright piracy is not a result of Google (or Bing or Yahoo)’s search results – it’s a result of copyright holders’ failing to provide content in a convenient and affordable manner.

In addition to this, how big a problem piracy really presents is also in doubt – in 2013, despite widespread piracy Hollywood made over $12 billion in US box office sales alone, while the UK music industry was described as one of the country’s ‘biggest success stories‘ and contributed £3.8 billion (approx. $6.14 billion USD) to the British economy.

The entertainment industry has however made it clear time and again that mere facts will not get in the way of its ideological crusade on copyright piracy, and therefore no matter how much Google (and other search engines) do to placate it, it will never be enough…

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