As of today, websites repeatedly hit with copyright infringement notices will be pushed down the list in Google’s search results, The Stool Pigeon reports.
The website will use a new algorithm to detect sites which have been issued with frequent takedown notices and push these sites down the listings; meaning that torrent and filesharing links will likely be much harder to locate, while legitimate sources of content will float to the top.
The change follows intense pressure from the entertainment industries, and represents an unsettling capitulation to corporate interests from the otherwise largely impartial Google.
The move is timed to coincide neatly with the recent launch of Google Play, a multimedia content platform intended to rival the likes of iTunes; it seems likely that entertainment companies who stand to benefit from the move may now be more forthcoming in offering up their catalogues for use on the site.
Amit Singhal, the company’s senior vice-president for engineering, wrote that: “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.”
However, there is some ambiguity as to what constitutes a legitimate takedown notice. As Singhal points out: “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 removals.”