In a move that’s long overdue, Google has announced a change to the search algorithm it uses to “rank” websites listed in search results, lowering the ranking of the most egregious pirate sites. In a posting on their “Inside Search” blog Amit Singhal explains the move:
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.
This is good news for content creators everywhere and reflects another positive step on the part of legitimate business to delegitimize those trafficking in stolen goods. PayPal recently announced it was severing its ties to various pirate websites and now Google is revising the way it ranks sites. Certainly this won’t end piracy, but it will direct the casual consumer to legitimate sites where they can find what they want for a reasonable price and compensate the creator in the process.
With this latest announcement there appears to be hope that we can gradually transform on the online black market that drives today’s piracy into a legitimate one that can offer both consumers and creators the choices they seek. Consumers can find and access content they want it for a reasonable price, while creators can distribute their work efficiently and economically throughout the world. It helps level the online playing field–and is a win, win for us all. Many have correctly pointed out that Youtube results aren’t included in their ranking changes despite the fact Youtube undoubtedly receives a huge number of DMCA notices. While Youtube does offer rights holders a Content Management System as a means to protect and control content, it’s an imperfect and buggy system at best.
Next up on Google’s agenda should be its own house starting with the thousands of Blogger-hosted websites that offer nothing but pirated material (sort of like Filestube.com, but shinier).