Google Search Algorithm Incorporates Copyright Removals

August 13, 2012

Collective Measures
Learn how the Google search algorithm has been updated, lowering SERPs for any site that has a high number of valid copyright removal notices.

Back in May, I blogged about Google adding copyright to the transparency report. At that time, I wasn’t sure how rankings of the targeted domains would be affected. 

Then, last Friday, August 10, 2012, Amit Singha, head of Google’s core ranking team, posted on the official Google search blog about “an update to our search algorithms“, that answers some of those questions.

Starting this week Google search algorithm will be updated, lowering SERPs for any site that has a high number of valid copyright removal notices.

Copyright owners and reporting organization can report content that they believe violates applicable laws, including copyright infringement. Based on what Google has stated, it seems if it is decided a copyright has been infringed upon, Google will remove the reported page from search results and count it as a valid copyright removal notice. These valid copyright removal notices are what is taken into account when ranking web pages on the same domain.

Simply stated, this change will help legitimate websites, while pushing down illegitimate websites. Per Amit Singha:

“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.”

Has Google’s effort made a difference? Based on the numbers, comparing (April 2012 – July 2012), one could assume that within the last four months there has been an asserted effort by copyright owners/reporting organizations to request copyright URL removals. Additionally, but probably not surprising, the number of domains targeted did not increase tremendously. From April 2012 – July 2012, URLs requested to be removed were up 239%, while the targeted domains only increased 18%.

Google Transparency Report Copyright Overview July 2012

Is this a win-win for Google and copyright owners? Maybe. The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) are “optimistic” – quoting their press release on Google’s announcement:

“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. 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.”

Lastly, for webmasters who receive a copyright removal notice and believe the content has been wrongly removed, Google does provide “counter-notice” tools.