10
Aug
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This may not be strictly Android-related news, but it's safe to say that what Google does to search results is relevant to our readers' interests, no? Today, Google announced via its Inside Search blog that the company will start including the volume of valid copyright removal notices as a factor in determining how high or low a site ranks in its search results. Translation: pirate sites won't be removed entirely, but they'll start ranking lower than legitimate sites.

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Pretty soon, sites like the Pirate Bay won't be the #1 search result anymore.

The net effect of this change will likely be very minimal to the more hardcore pirates. It will, however, make it difficult for the average, uninformed user to stumble into a life of rum-soaked parties and plundering torrents and illicit video streams. The bigger takeaway is that it seems Google is becoming a bit more willing to play ball with copyright owners on combating piracy in its search results.

It's no secret that Google and the movie/music industries haven't gotten along in the past. When the search giant first launched Google Music beta back in 2011, it was reported that the company couldn't secure deals with major record labels. Apparently, among other reasons, Google was unwilling to remove links to pirate sites from its search results.

Google reiterates this core belief in its blog post today when it says "Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law." Indeed, the moment Google starts deciding what can and cannot not be found by its users, the company stops being a search engine and starts playing the role of a court of law.

However, no one ever said Google can't lower a site's ranking. This happens all the time. In fact, it's the whole point of a search engine: finding the most relevant information that a user is looking for. Of course, finding information about illegal activities does not itself constitute committing a crime, and even now Google walks a fine line. Still, this may be the best compromise Google and copyright owners can agree on without Mountain View becoming the cyber police.

That being said, it's still a pretty dramatic shift in Google's stance. Whether this is being driven by a behind-the-scenes attempt to get more content into the Play Store is unknown (though highly likely). Either way, the company is clearly sympathizing with its content partners more now than it has in the past.

Thankfully, site owners will still have the same tools at their disposal to combat false claims of infringement. Google also reiterates that it will continue to operate its Transparency Report to keep users informed of just how many takedown notices it receives. If you're a site owner or just a concerned citizen, you might do well to take a look at who's doing most of the reporting. Currently, the RIAA is the number one copyright owner in terms of number of takedown requests, with Microsoft trailing at number two.

Source: Google Inside Search Blog

Eric Ravenscraft
Eric is a snarky technophile with a taste for the unusual. When he's not obsessing about Android, you can usually find him obsessing about movies, psychology, or the perfect energy drink. Eric weaves his own special blend of snark, satire, and comedy into all his articles.

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

    It's definitely a very big deal, because it's the first time I've seen any company actually promise to do something that is A.) reasonable and B.) inarguably going to be effective at combating piracy. Despite what mouthpieces for the movie and music industry like Ari Emanuel may say, there is clearly a lot of room for compromise on this issue, and it doesn't have to come in the form of unnecessary, draconian legislation.

    Good on Google for doing what, in the end, is the right thing - protecting rightsowners, protecting its users from potential legal liability, and improving the savoriness of its answers to queries that could tempt people into doing something they know isn't OK. Seems like a win-win to me.

    • Sqube

      So basically, all sorts of corporations are going to start tossing out spurious takedown claims and getting sites they don't like downranked. If there's one thing I've learned, it's that there are very few negative repercussions to sending out things like DMCA takedown notices.

      I absolutely understand why they're doing this. All I see, however, is an inevitable downranking of things that they don't like.

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

        "Valid copyright takedown requests" only. All you have to do as a webmaster to refute a bogus copyright claim is send a stock response back to Google saying you contest the takedown request and do not believe you infringe, then Google goes away, and the rightsowner can't submit a new request for that page. They have to sue you at that point, and if it really is a bogus claim, they won't.

        • marcusmaximus04

          How much effort does it take to submit such a takedown request?(serious question, not rhetorical)

          If it just requires filling out a simple form on a website then it'll be interesting to see if any groups start employing DDOS-like attacks on websites by submitting bogus copyright claims millions of times against the target website from numerous different hosts.

          • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

            You have to show you own the rights to the work in question, which does require an attestation. Google would quickly catch on to something like that - a real rightsowner has no reason to spam requests for a single page, one is all you need. Google checks each claim individually, as well - there is nothing automated about the system. A real person checks the accused page, every time.

        • Sqube

          Consider that we have notice-and-takedown, instead of notice-and-notice. If I, Regular Guy Sqube, get a DMCA takedown request and contest it, they don't have to go through the lawsuit. How many people are actually willing to even deal with the specter of such a threat?

          It's like the lawsuits that the porn guys are currently employing. Only a minuscule fraction will reply with their own legal team, and you immediately let those guys off of the hook. Everybody else will just dance to your tune, and you'll get most (if not all) of what you want. For every site that's willing to fight, how many more will cave rather than risk years in court?

          Obviously, it could go either way. I just think that empirical evidence indicates that it's more likely that this will have a chilling effect on free speech.

        • IceBeam

          "Valid copyright takedown requests"
          Today. Tomorrow item 'valid' items under the law.

          • JG

            redefining words huh... Kind of like "unlimited" means 5GBs now?

  • Kaustubh Ghanekar

    Well, pirates have different search engines to search those contents ;)

  • Isidhu

    Hope that translates into awesome Play store for all android devices.

  • jamesbond

    Oh well, I know lots of pirate sites. And there is always duckduckgo

  • http://www.facebook.com/jp.palacio.7 Jp Palacio

    Time to google a search engine who have pirate sites on search results.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1745689461 Hal Motley

    I usually go on the torrent site and search/select download as torrent (for CyanogenMod and other Linux distributions) so actually when I think about it, this is quite minimal.

  • tom

    It is censorship and control over something that should not. As with any censorship or control matter it can and will be abused by someone. I have seen many sites get blacklisted by watchdog groups because some one out there had some grudge against the site owner. I can see this same thing being done here. MPAA RIAA etc should all quit looking for scapegoats and learn to change with the times.
    More and more I read this pirate BS the more I see bootlegs being sold in retail stores. I would expect these to hurt more in proper REAL sales since everyone sold is a customer with purchasing CASH in had. Internet Pirates remind me of the whole "free tv" beta/vhs and cassette tape whine fests these groups/rackets stirred up.

    The more these rackets whine and push things the more the little guy is exploited. "Valid copyright takedown requests" by who's standards? Do you know a small print shop or individual artist cannot afford the lawyer to create a dmca? Do you know more big business pisses about copyright the more individuals are being exploited? Look at ebay, how much is being sold there is someone elses work? Places like Pixiv, DA, 3d forums, etc are being indexed and artists exploited by theft and none of these laws or changes help at all, just make it worse.

  • IceBeam

    "but they'll start ranking lower than legitimate sites."
    Those ARE legitimate sites if you are googling for torrents.

    Though ultimately this censorship is irrelevant - the majority of people don't want the copyright laws, and eventually some politicians will be elected are not bowing to the copyright industries.

    And meanwhile most of the planet will fight them - and if google amputates itself as a search engine, others will take its place.

  • watson111505

    Garbage...still going to torrent...no matter what they do

  • Martin

    It seems like Google has a good idea on how to implement it but any tampering with the results will open up for abuse. Company A wants to stop Company B from selling a new product, report and get their sites downranked. We have seen this behavior before but lets hope Google will be hard with the cheaters!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andresdroid Andres Schmois

    This is not a censorship... Sure I don't totally agree with it and it has a possibility of ending bad, but if done right, Google added a new variable to the already millions of variables that a search request has. Google has the right to change variables to up a site, or lower it in the rankings. By the way, Google also has the right to take down any site off their search engine (of course they wouldn't because it definitely will look bad). My whole point is that Google makes the rules for what's on the results and which number they are in, and they always have been.

  • JG

    Great thought, but I can see this having serious issue.

    First off... I predict that Google's own YouTube will be one of the first sites to get seriously downgraded... There's something like a day's worth of videos being uploaded to YouTube every second. How many of those are videos with a TV/radio/etc playing in the background? Or a bunch of idiot kids dancing to the latest craze? Or uploaded a photo collage with their favorite song as background music? All of them could legitimately get take down requests for using someone else's song without authorization.

    Also, what is to stop Skype, Vonage, etc from teaming up against some new VoIP provider, throwing millions of take down requests to Google just to keep the competition from getting a top billing spot when someone searches for home phone replacements?

    "But it has to be a legitimate, valid take down request", as a fellow commented brought up. Alright, so maybe Vonage & Skype won't bring down a VoIP competitor. However, I read a story on Slash Dot about a guy who uploaded a nature video he shot (took the camera into the woods & just hit record). The only sound was birds chirping, yet a company sent a take down request to YouTube claiming he used one of their soundtracks without permission. He, naturally, refuted, they sent back "We double checked, and yes, he is using our copyrighted works without permission". It wasn't until the story went viral on Slash Dot, Reddit, and other sites that the company finally said "oh, our bad, it was a false positive by our automatic screening algorithm". Or I just read an article about LendInk, a site set up to facilitate lending of Kindle books (totally legit, allowed by Amazon), but a group of authors got the wrong idea & thought it was a pirate site giving away free copies of their books & encouraged everyone to send take down requests. The site's host ended up taking it down. So take down notices are being sent to sites that are totally above board and not affiliated with piracy in any way. I highly doubt Google is going to sit there & verify the authenticity of each request to make sure it wasn't an automated false positive or a misunderstanding as the two examples I provided were... [NOTE: Google, if you are planning on setting something like that up, I'll submit my resume... I could think of worse ways to spend 8hrs a day - plus maybe I could help alpha test some new products on the side]