Google has announced that, from next week, sites generating too many copyright takedown notices will be penalised in search engine page result rankings.
“This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily …,” said Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president of engineering, on Google’s blog. “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.”
More than 4.3 million domains were flagged by Google for possible piracy violations in the past month alone. This new system will allow distinction to be made between those sites receiving a high number of reports of copyright infringement and those with complaints that have been deemed valid, which can only be decided though the courts.
“Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law,” said Singhal. “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. And we’ll continue to provide ‘counter-notice’ tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated.”
Digital rights organisation, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has criticised the lack of information provided by Google in a press release. “What is a ‘high number’? How does Google plan to make these determinations? Oh, and one other thing we do know, one that is particularly troubling: there will be no process or recourse for sites who have been demoted. In short, without details on how Google’s process works, we have no reason to believe they won’t make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers.”