Google has taken a significant step against online piracy after saying it would alter its search algorithms to favour websites that offered legitimate copyrighted movies, music and television. Google said that beginning next week its algorithms would take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices sites have received and sites with multiple, valid complaints about copyright infringement may appear lower in Google search results ........ like YouTube for example ..... no, I made the last bit up.
The move is set against growing disquiet about whether or not "safe harbour" really is appropriate in the digital age - and this initiative is clearly on Google's terms, BUT it is a move forward for content owners.
Google's Senior Vice President Engineering Amit Singhal said in a post on Google's official blog "We aim to provide a great experience for our users and have developed over 200 signals to ensure our 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."
"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.
Singhal added more detail but also indicated that the search engine would not completely remove alleged infringing sites from searches saying "Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, 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
Unsurprisingly, organisations representing content owners in the entertainment sector were pleased with RIAA chairman and CEO Cary Sherman saying "Today Google has announced a potentially significant change in its search rankings that can make a meaningful difference to creators: sites that are the subject of large numbers of copyright removal notices may be ranked lower in search results than before. This should result in improved rankings for the licensed music services that pay artists and deliver fans the music they love. 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" but added “As Google itself has acknowledged, this is not
the only approach, and of course, the details of implementation will matter. Moreover, there are many more actions that we hope Google will take.” On the other side of the digital divide, The Electronic Frontier Foundation said the new guidelines are too vague, millions of takedown notices later prove to be unfounded and there is no recourse for site owners who have been (wrongly) demoted.
More on Techdirt here and from CNET here