Google updates search algorithm to target copyright violations

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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Google’s search algorithm has been updated to downgrade webpages that have received too many copyright violation notices — a move that will cause them to appear lower in Google search results.

The company announced the update on Friday on its Inside Search blog. The change is scheduled to begin next week, but the company was quick to note that it would not be deciding whether a webpage violated copyright law — that decision would remain in the hands of the copyright holder and the courts.

“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,” said Amit Singhai, senior vice president of engineering at Google.

“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,” Singhai said.

“And we’ll continue to provide ‘counter-notice‘ tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated. We’ll also continue to be transparent about copyright removals,” he continued.

The Motion Picture Association of America — one of several institutions that have been continuously at odds with Google over how it handles copyright issues — said that it was “optimistic” about Google’s new strategy.

“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,” said Michael O’Leary, senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs, in a statement following Google’s announcement.

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Josh Peterson