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Google New Search Policy Punishes Copyright Infringing Sites

Posted by KL Tech Muse at 3:59 PM on August 11, 2012

Starting soon if your site is hit by numerous DMCA takedown notices it may affect your listing in google search. Google stated in their post
“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our ranking: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results.”

There are some problems with this new policy. First Google determines what is a valid DMCA takedown. A valid takedown simply means that there was a complaint against the site, the correct paperwork was filled out and there was no counter-claim filed. It doesn’t mean the takedown has gone through any legal process and has been found valid by a court of law. Critics complain that if someone has a beef against a site they could use this to issue false claims to punish the site.
As stated by the EFF

“Takedown requests are nothing more than accusations of copyright infringement. No court or other umpire confirms that the accusations are valid (although copyright owners can be liable for bad-faith accusations). Demoting search results – effectively telling the searcher that these are not the websites you’re looking for – based on accusations alone gives copyright owners one more bit of control over what we see, hear, and read.”

Google has stated that sites may appeal if they believe they have been falsely accused. However it is not clear what number would be considered numerous and if the sites themselves will be notified of the reason they are being demoted in search.
Sites are still listed under Google Search, but most likely will not show up on the first page of search, which means people who are search ninjas, will have no trouble finding these sites, however most normal people searches stop at the first page. Which means for all practical purposes the punish sites will not exist for most people. This will clearly hurt BitTorrent sites who are used to share both legitimate files, but also pirated media and games

Many people believe that by establishing this policy Google is trying to placate Hollywood and the music industry who have long complained that Google hasn’t done enough to filter pirated sites. In fact many people have nick named this policy the Emanuel Policy, after Ari Emanuel, Co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor who complained at the D Conference earlier this year that Google wasn’t doing enough to filter pirated content

One of the reasons that Google maybe doing this at this time is because it is a content provider now and so it needs to establish partnership with Hollywood media. Google has denied this and says it is because they finally have the data they need. Interestingly both YouTube and Blogger sites will not be effected by the changes in search policy. Search Engine Land explains why this is so in How YouTube will Escape Google’s New Pirate Penalty. I expect that you will start to hear howls from various sites once this policy goes into effect.

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