Google to demote copyright infringing websites

As of this week Google’s new algorithm is in place. Whilst Google update their search algorithms on a regular basis this new change is slightly controversial. In essence the intention of Google is to demote websites that appear to be infringing copyright, the way that it does this is to take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices a website receives.

The idea therefore is that websites that receive a large number of valid copyright removal notices will feature lower in the search engine’s rankings than a website that does not receive any (or many) such notices. Google’s algorithms are of course very complex and I am by no means an expert however the above description should at least give you a steer as to what the latest changes are hoping to achieve.

Google’s Senior Vice President Engineering Amit Singhal has said: “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.”

The obvious concern with Google’s change is that Google is not a court and cannot determine whether or not there has been an infringement. Furthermore, and bearing in mind the number of seemingly valid copyright removal notices that are made and later found  out to be unfounded, there is no recourse for website owners who have found their websites incorrectly demoted. Whilst Google have confirmed that their “counter-notice” tools will remain it is not clear whether these will have retrospective effect on a website’s ranking i.e. will Google somehow compensate (perhaps artificially raise a website’s ranking) for an incorrect demotion?

It will certainly be interesting to watch Youtube’s plummet through the rankings (maybe not!).

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