There’s a war going on deep within the confines of cyberspace. Those who believe that information (and entertainment) should be free openly share files on peer-to-peer networks. Copyright holders battle against them, trying to shut down infringers with a combination of lawsuits and lobbying government for harsher penalties.
Up until recently a quick Google search would always point a potential pirate in the right direction to find the torrent they wanted. But last week, the Big G announced a fairly major change to its search algorithm, which will effectively remove results to sites that receive large amounts of valid copyright removal notices. The idea is that when you search for your favourite movie, you’ll end up with links to iTunes or BigPond Movies instead of torrent site after torrent site.
But Google isn’t suddenly appointing itself as police of the Web. It’s admitted that the changes won’t influence rankings of popular traffic sites like Facebook, Twitter and its very own YouTube. It also insists that the new algorithm won’t actively remove any pages from search results, instead pushing the results way down the list. Google will only remove offending pages when it receives a valid copyright removal notice from the rights holders.
So what will this do to stem piracy? Very little. While lazy pirates may rely on Google to do the legwork to find a digital version of the copyrighted material, the simple truth is that the content won’t suddenly disappear from the internet. While Google may not pull out the map to point you where to go, it’s still possible to find the content by looking either directly through a torrent sharing site or by doing a little legwork.
So what’s the point? Given that Google now receives over 143,000 take down notices every day, it’s clearly an attempt to appease the copyright holders of the world, and maybe just reduce some of the workload of dealing with that.
Not only that, but the changing web is constantly forcing Google to reevaluate its search algorithm. The rise of media streaming services like Quickflix, Spotify and Rdio has driven the valid alternatives to piracy consumers have been begging for since the days of Napster. Giving them precedence over questionable bittorrent files both keeps copyright holders happy and helps consumers get the best content quickest.
And offering value-for-money legal alternatives is what will help reduce piracy.