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Google: Pirated Content Will Be Harder To Find

10 Aug, 2012 By: Chris Tribbey

Google Aug. 10 announced that it soon will change how search results for content is prioritized, with websites receiving a high number of copyright removal notices appearing lower in search results.

Google said the changes in its search algorithms would “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.”

“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,” Amit Singhal, SVP of engineering for Google, wrote in a blog post. “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.”

Google said it receives and processes more copyright removal notices in a day now than it did in all of 2009, with more than 4.3 million URL copyright notifications in the past month.

Michael O’Leary, senior EVP for global policy and external affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, praised the announcement.

“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, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe,” he said in a statement. “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 favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.”

Cary Sherman, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, said the move is a step in the right direction.

“By taking this common-sense step and treating copyright in a way that’s consistent with the search firm’s approach to other forms of activity on the Internet, Google has signaled a new willingness to value the rights of creators,” he said. “That is good news indeed. And the online marketplace for the hundreds of licensed digital services embraced by the music business is better today than it was yesterday.”

However, Julie Samuels and Mitch Stoltz, staff attorneys with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a consumer advocacy group, called Google’s process “opaque” and lamented that sites given lower search priority would have no recourse.

“In particular, we worry about the false positives problem. For example, we’ve seen the government wrongly target sites that actually have a right to post the allegedly infringing material in question or otherwise legally display content,” they wrote. “In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers.”

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