Google changes algorithm to demote pirated content in search

Google is making a major change to its search algorithm by downgrading pirated content in its search rankings, following pressure from the media industry.

Google: algorithm change will downgrade pirated content in its search rankings
Google: algorithm change will downgrade pirated content in its search rankings

The algorithm change will roll out this week and will mean that for the first time, all valid copyright removal notices Google receives will be taken into account.

As a result, sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in its search results.

The move will come as a victory for media and film companies, which have long complained that Google does not do enough to protect copyright holders' material.

Amit Singhal, senior vice-president of engineering at Google, wrote on its official Search Blog that the change was part of the company’s aim "to provide a great experience for our users".

He wrote: "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."

Google said that since it overhauled its copyright removals two years ago, it has been given "much more data" by copyright owners and is processing more copyright removal notices every day ,than it did in the whole of 2009. It claims to have processed more that 4.3 million URLs in the past 30 days.

Google does not remove pages unless it has received a valid copyright removal from the rights owner. It also has a counter-notice tool in place, for site owners who believe their content has been wrongly removed.

The move could pave the way for Google to sign content deals with record labels and film studios through its Google Play service, having struggled to sign content deals in the past.

In the UK, Ofcom is moving ahead with plans to force internet service providers to send warning letters to customers suspected of copyright infringement.

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