Digital Top Stories

Google to consider takedown notices in page rankings

By | Published on Monday 13 August 2012


See, bang on about something long enough, and sometimes something happens. As much previously reported, links to unlicensed content in the Google search results of most pop stars has been the music industry’s biggest piracy-gripe of late, and so the web giant last week announced an update to its search algorithm that will down rank websites that are served with large numbers of legitimate content takedown requests under US copyright law.

The ‘legitimate’ bit is key there. While Google wants to keep content owners happy to an extent (it wanting said content owners as partners on other projects, and also to placate those political types who are prone to support the entertainment industry), it doesn’t want to be seen to be censoring the net, or to be providing a system whereby big copyright owners can force websites into obscurity by filing a million take-down notices. And, it added, the new algorithm could never de-list a site completely.

The web firm said on its blog: “Only copyright holders know if something is authorised, 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”.

Nevertheless, record label trade body the BPI welcomed the announcement, with its top man Geoff Taylor telling CMU: “We have argued for some time that the fact that certain websites are subject to very high numbers of DMCA notifications, because they feature a large amount of illegal content, should be reflected in lower search rankings. Consumers overwhelmingly want and expect the top search results for entertainment content to feature legal, licensed services. We will look carefully at how much impact this change will have in practice, but we welcome the announcement from Google and will be pressing other search engines to follow suit”.

News of the new piracy-aware algorithm led some to speculate whether Google’s own YouTube would be affected, it being subject to a fair number of take-down notices, but it seems ‘nuances’ in the new system will help protect responsible user-generated content set ups. Though those nuances will benefit all user-upload sites, Google said, not just its own.