LOS ANGELES – Google has been blasted by Hollywood and other content owners for not doing enough to purge links to pirated material from its dominant Internet search engine. In response to the accusation, Google is updating its search engine technology to make websites that violate copyright law appear lower in search results. Google is also refining its autocomplete function, which helps users find the right search terms, to make it harder to locate sites known for hosting pirated content.
Google and the copyright lobby have been, to some extent, enemies for years — they probably will be as long as Google is an index for the web and the web contains pirated media. However, as the company’s grown up, it has partnered with the music industry to root out piracy (or pay royalties) on YouTube; it has set up its own book, movie, and music store with Google Play; and last year, it put up a report detailing its attempts to fight copyright infringement and assuring rights holders that YouTube and Search made up only a small portion of pirate traffic. This year, it’s taking the same tack, with a few new details.
In addition, Google said it recently enhanced “autocomplete” and “related search” functions to prevent terms “closely associated with piracy” from appearing in those results, and that it has introduced new advertising products to further promote authorized sources of content in search results. However, Google maintains that the best way to battle piracy is for content owners to distribute their works via legitimate digital services.
YouTube’s Content ID system – which identifies copyrighted material and gives owners the option to remove it or serve ads against it – has produced more than US$1 billion in revenue for partners in the last seven years, according to Google. In fact, it says that more than one-third of ads served on YouTube now come via Content ID, which is used by 5,000 studios, TV networks, record labels and other copyright holders.
Google also noted its July 2013 agreement with the White House’s Office of the U.S. Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator (IPEC), along with Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo and other ad networks, to commit to policies prohibiting advertising from piracy websites. At the time, the MPAA criticized the announcement as insufficiently addressing a narrow subset of the piracy problem and because it place a disproportionate burden on rights holders.