Google has been in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation for a very long time. On one hand, they’re simply a data bridge connecting users with the information they’re looking for. In an effort to do a good job, they make judgements about the content they serve up, deciding which bits are more suited to the query than others.
Over the past year, Google has been tweaking their algorithm to exclude “bad” sites from the top results. “Bad” meaning spam sites, sites designed to trick users into clicking on them, and content farms whose sole purpose is to bring in traffic for ads.
Now, they’re taking another step toward sanitizing results, they’re dinging copyright violators and that’s gonna hurt.
The number of URL removal requests due to copyright violations has soared to new heights this past year. This is likely due to a rise in both the number of illegal usage sites and the media companies’ interest in fighting them.
In the past few years, there’s been a huge increase in legal, digital download and streaming options for movies, music, TV shows and books. So more than ever, there are dollars to be won or lost on the internet. This is probably why Google finally decided to take a stand. No longer just a middleman, Google is trying to position itself as a media destination, so they need the content producers to stand behind them.
In order to please the media without crossing into total censorship land, Google has agreed to punish repeat offenders by dropping them to a lower rank in search. The ding is based on the number of valid copyright removal notices, not just complaints, so there is a basis for action.
I’m a TV and movie fan so I use Google to search titles everyday and I’m amazed by the number of illegal download sites that appear at the top of the page. Often, these options appear above the legitimate sources such as network websites, Hulu, Netflix, and the like. That’s got to be painful for the studios and it sounds like this new rule is going to tip the bucket upside down.
Google keeps a current list of offenders on their new transparency site. It’s populated with dozens of sites with the words torrent, file, sharing and mp3 in their names.
But let’s take this a step further. Now that a system is in place, media companies could start going after the little guy. The small gossip website that posts paparazzi photos, the fansite that creates music videos for their favorite show — how far will it go?
Right now, it looks like Google is going after the big sites that make a living purely off of bootlegging movies, TV shows and music. These sites depend on search to bring in an audience, so knocking them down in the rankings could be all it takes to put them out of business. After all, these sites are only it in for profit. Take that away and they’ll likely go find another park to play in.
What do you think? Should Google penalize copyright violators or are they just a middleman who shouldn’t be passing judgement on a site’s content?