Google Releases New Update to Penalize Copyright Infringers
Attention publishers with copyright infringing content on their websites: Google just released an algorithm update that factors in the number of copyright takedown notices that any website receives. This means that if your website receives removal notices from copyright holders, you could get penalized and your site may appear lower in search results.
Inside Search, Google’s official search blog states the following:
We aim to provide a great experience for our users and have developed over 200 signals to ensure our search algorithms deliver the best possible results. Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: 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. 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.
Apparently, the search giant has gotten a lot of data from copyright owners about infringing online content. According to Google, they are now processing more removal notices per day than in the whole of 2009 and they have received over 4.3 million URLS just in the last 30 days.
Search Engine Land aptly labeled the new algorithmic change as the “Emmanuel Update”, named after Ari Emanuel, the co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, a top Hollywood agency. Emanuel is very vocal about how companies like Google should police the Internet for copyright infringing content.
About Copyright Removal Requests
In order to fully understand how the Emanuel update works, you need to know more about the process of copyright removal requests. Google states that , “Copyright owners and reporting organizations that represent them submit requests asking us to remove material that allegedly infringes copyright or links to allegedly infringing material.” These requests are submitted through an online form that copyright owners and reporting organizations need to fill up.
NOTE: This form only handles takedown requests from search results. Removal requests pertaining to other Google properties such as YouTube and Blogger are handled by a different system.
Once a request has been submitted, it usually takes Google about 10 hours to process removal requests (as of May 2012). Do note that removal requests aren’t always accurate. People may fill out the form incorrectly, and erroneous requests can also be submitted.
According to the Google, examples of requests that they do not comply with include:
- A major U.S. motion picture studio requested removal of the IMDb page for a movie released by the studio, as well as the official trailer posted on a major authorized online media service.
- A driving school in the U.K. requested the removal of a competitor's homepage from Search, on the grounds that the competitor had copied an alphabetized list of cities and regions where instruction was offered.
- Multiple individuals in the U.S. requested the removal of search results that link to blog posts and web forums that associated their names with certain allegations, locations, dates or negative comments.
To see the full list of examples as well as to get more information about copyright removal requests, visit Google’s Removal Requests FAQ page here.
Who is Submitting Removal Requests?
Google lists the sites / entities that submit takedown requests on its Transparency Report. As of the time of writing this, there are over 9,199 organizations that asked the search giant to remove search results that allegedly contain copyright infringing content. Some of the top reporting organizations include the Recording Industry Association of America, Takedown Piracy LLC, the British Recorded Music Industry, NBC Universal, and other copyright protection companies such as Marketly LLC, and Degban Ltd.
Which Websites Receive the Most Removal Requests?
The search giant also provides a list of domains that have received copyright removal notices. There are currently 129,133 domains in its list and such domains include torrent sites such as extratorrent.com, torrenthound.com, torrentz.eu, as well as other file-sharing sites including filestube.com and bitsnoop.com.
What About YouTube and Other Social Sites?
This is where it gets tricky. The Emmanuel update will penalize torrent and file sharing sites for having copyright infringing content. Interestingly though, social websites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google’s very own YouTube, which can also serve as avenues for copyright infringing content may NOT take a hit. Why not? Well the answer to that remains unclear, as Google isn’t revealing all their factors behind this algorithm update. According to Danny Sullivan of Search Engine Land:
Google told me today that the new penalty will look beyond just the number of notices. It will also take into account other factors, specifics that Google won’t reveal, but with the end result that YouTube — as well as other popular sites beyond YouTube — aren’t expected to be hit.
What other sites? Examples Google gave me include Facebook, IMDB, Tumblr and Twitter. But it’s not that there’s some type of “whitelist” of sites. Rather, Google says the algorithm automatically assesses various factors or signals to decide if a site with a high number of copyright infringement notices against it should also face a penalty.
What If You Were Wrongly Accused?
If your website took a hit because of false removal requests, you may submit a request to be reinstated in search results. Google writes in its blog:
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. 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. 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.
You may fill out a DMCA counter-notification form here where you will need to submit your contact information as well the specific content that Google has removed.
Image credit: Joe Shlabotnik on Flickr