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Google: Piracy Accusations Will Lower Search Rankings

As a nod to the entertainment industry, Google is threatening to give poor search-result rankings to sites accused of violating copyright claims. Larry Greenemeier reports

Google played a key role in helping shoot down the U.S. government's proposed Stop Online Piracy Act, or SOPA, earlier this year. The entertainment industry supported the act. Now Google seems to be throwing the industry a bone—by threatening to give poor search-result rankings to sites accused of violating copyright claims.

Google calculates search engine results using a complicated algorithm that factors in more than 200 different pieces of criteria, called "signals." The newest signal is "valid copyright removal notices" that accuse a site of hosting or linking to pirated songs, videos or other content. Now the more of these notices a Web page gets, the less likely anyone is to ever find it. Google has received more than 4.5 million such notices in the past month alone.

Google's move is a compromise. Copyright holders still have to prove their content has been pirated, and the courts still have the power to make Google take down Web pages that infringe on those copyrights. But the new strategy means that simply being accused of piracy is enough for a site to rank poorly when someone does a Google search.

—Larry Greenemeier

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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