Google has taken a step against piracy, announcing Friday that it will update its search algorithm to de-emphasize sites with a history of copyright infringement.
The algorithm will now factor in how many times a site has received valid copyright removal notices, and those with more notices will appear lower in the 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,” Amy Singhal, SVP of engineering at Google, said in a note on the Google search blog.
Whether this will impact the prevalence of YouTube in search results remains to be seen.
Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it is incumbent upon the copyright holders, like Viacom, to file takedown notices when they find illicit material.
However, those companies have urged Google, by far the most dominant search engine, to change its search to prioritize legal content, among other measures.
Though copyright hounds like the Motion Picture Association of American and Recording Industry Association of America would like to see Google do more, this is a first step.
“We are optimistic that Google’s actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe," the MPAA's Michael O'Leary said in a statement. "We will be watching this development closely -- the devil is always in the details -- and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.”
“This should result in improved rankings for the licensed music services that pay artists and deliver fans the music they love,” RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman said in a statement. “This change is an important step in the right direction – a step we’ve been urging Google to take for a long time -- and we commend the company for its action.”