Beginning this week, Google is adding a new signal to the 200+ factors that make up their search algorithm: the number of copyright complaints a site receives.
With the new change, sites that receive a large volume of copyright removal notices will be pushed lower in the search rankings, although at this point Google has not mentioned any plans to remove sites completely from their results.
Google has long been under fire from media groups around the globe who claim that Google facilitates piracy and has even made tweaks in the past to appease these groups, such as removing “torrent” related words from their Autocomplete suggestions. This new change, like any change the search giant makes, will be scrutinized and will have critics on both sides of the issue. Search is such an integral part of our lives now and with Google in the driving seat every change they make can have big repercussions. With great power comes great responsibility.
Already there are complaints that this new change does not affect YouTube, even though Google’s video giant hosts plenty of pirated content and receives a large number of take down requests. For an interesting commentary on this particular issue, check out “Google Prefers The Piracy Of User-Generated Content Sites. Here’s Why.”
Personally I think this is a great move from Google. By approaching copyright issues in this way Google does not have to judge whether material is posted illegally; the onus is on copyright holders to police their own content. According to Google, “Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, 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.”
For those concerned that their competitors are going to file frivolous complaints to push them out of search rankings or those hopeful that small time copyright offenders will be shut down, neither situation is likely. As you can see on Google’s “Transparency Report” this is a fight between the big boys.
So what do you think? Has Google gone too far or not far enough?