Google to drop search rankings of sites with many takedown notices

Google logoIn a Friday morning blog post, Google said it will change its search algorithm next week to take into account the number of valid copyright removal notices it receives for any site. High rates of removal notices are likely to drop a site down in the search results, which Google says should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily.

The new move appears to be a nod in the direction of rightsholders, most notably the MPAA and RIAA. The latter trade group, meanwhile, has argued previously that Google isnt doing enough to remove possibly infringing links.

On its website, the RIAA called the new move a "potentially significant announcement."

"This change is an important step in the right directiona step weve been urging Google to take for a long timeand we commend the company for its action," wrote Cary Sherman, the RIAAs chairman and CEO, in a statement on the groups website.

Similarly, the MPAA also applauded the move.

"We are optimistic that Googles 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," wrote Michael OLeary, the MPAA's senior executive vice president for global policy, in an e-mailed statement sent to Ars. "We will be watching this development closelythe devil is always in the detailsand look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.

Digital rights advocates worried about lack of recourse

Meanwhile, the Electronic Frontier Foundation worries that Googles demotion of some websites may be abused, simply because they may be accused of copyright violations, rather than evaluated or even convicted. And the EFF isnt just being paranoid. Weve seen many examples of rightholders issuing bad takedowns for files that were not infringing, or worse, that they didnt own or even see.

"What we dont know: what is a 'high number'?" wrote Julie Samuels and Mitch Stoltz, two EFF staff attorneys, on the organizations blog on Friday.

"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 particular, we worry about the false positives problem. For example, weve seen the government wrongly target sites that actually have a right to post the allegedly infringing material in question or otherwise legally display content. In short, without details on how Googles process works, we have no reason to believe they wont make similar, over-inclusive mistakes, dropping lawful, relevant speech lower in its search results without recourse for the speakers."

Google acknowledges that it will continue to offer 'counter-notice' tools, but the EFF appears to be worried about the lost search rankings that may happen in the interim.

"So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we wont be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner," wrote Amit Singhal, a Google senior vice president of engineering, in the blog post. "Well also continue to be transparent about copyright removals."

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Google, search

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