Google Outlines New Anti-Piracy Plan

Last year, copyright holders sent Google more than 224 million requests to remove search results that linked to allegedly pirated content. The company granted 99% of those requests, with an average turnaround time of less than six hours.

That's according to Google's latest report on piracy, released late last week. In addition to providing some figures about copyright takedowns, the report also outlines steps Google is taking to combat piracy. For one, the company says it has “improved and refined” an initiative to demote sites it believes are likely to contain pirated content, so that they appear lower in the search results.

Also, Google says it blacklists companies from AdSense after receiving valid copyright removal notices for their sites. “While a rogue site might occasionally slip through the cracks, the data suggests that these sites are a vanishingly small part of the AdSense network,” Google says in its latest report. “For example, we find that AdSense ads appear on far fewer than 1% of the pages that copyright owners identify in copyright removal notices for Search.”

Google additionally says it's testing new search ad formats that will flag services that offer legal downloads or streams.

One lawmaker, Rep. Darrell Issa (D-Calif.), said in a statement that Google's report shows that “cooperation between technology companies and content creators help ensure that intellectual property is protected.

An earlier incarnation of Google's anti-piracy effort failed to impress the record labels. In August of 2012, Google promised to tweak its search algorithm to bury alleged piracy sites low in the results. At the time, Google said it would consider the number of legitimate takedown notices it receives when determining sites' rankings.

The Recording Industry Association of America initially praised the move as a "step in the right direction."  Six months later, however, the RIAA revised its opinion. The organization said in a “report card” that it “found no evidence that Google’s policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy.” The RIAA added that those sites “consistently appear at the top of Google’s search results for popular songs or artists.”

The RIAA, like other entertainment industry groups, has long accused Google of enabling search users to find sites where they can access pirated content. Two years ago, those complaints almost resulted in legislation that would have would make it easier to obtain court orders requiring Google (and other search engines) to remove links to sites that were allegedly “devoted to piracy.” That legislation was defeated in early 2012.

For its part, Google says in its latest report that the best way to discourage online piracy is by making content available through legal channels.

“As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services,” the company writes. “The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.”

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