Legitimate Effort or Business As Usual? : How Google Fights Piracy

About 2 weeks ago I caught wind of some of the new changes Google would be making to combat piracy. The article cited three major implementations that are also detailed in Google’s annual report “How Google Fights Piracy” (Southern, 2014).

The article cited that Google improved the signal system in place for down-ranking piracy sites. This insures that sites that have a significant amount of takedown requests, specifically because they are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) will lose ranking in Google search. Site ranking is an important component for brands that engage in search engine optimization (SEO). To use the example of internet marketing, if you’re business is internet marketing and your company website appears on page 5 of Google searches for “internet marketing” that is something to work on because most people do not go to page 5 when shopping for help with their internet marketing. Site ranking is about reaching as many people that are looking for your service or content. Search engines can potentially give your business more visibility than traditional methods of advertising and marketing. Appearing on the first page of searches for your said industry means it will be easier for people to stumble upon your business. Making it easier to demote fraudulent sites is a positive step that Google has taken in trying to redirect people to websites that facilitate the purchases of music, movies, books, and other copyrighted content. The entertainment business has been the most effected by piracy and it is a noble enterprise to help detract people from going to the websites that facilitate the illegal free downloading of copyrighted content.

It’s not just an economics issue, combatting piracy is also about ethics and morals.

After the first week roll-out of Google’s pirate update, there was a huge drop in SEO visibility according to Search Metrics Founder Marcus Tober. “In our data that I analyzed I found that almost all sites where I think they had a drop because of the Pirate Update the drop was enormous. Some sites received a loss in SEO Visibility to 98%” (Tober 2014). Tober’s search analysis also identified some of the keywords and terms that got websites dropped significantly, and he made a list of the “top 30 losers” as he put them to reveal the top culprits in piracy who finally walked the plank this past week.

Source: Search Metrics SEO Blog, list created by Marcus Tober, founder of Search Metrics

The other major change Google said it would be making is the removal of more terms in Autocomplete, terms that are used to find pirated content online. Examples of such terms would contain such words as ‘free,’ “download,” the title of the content being searched and more. This measure is akin to having lane bumpers while bowling, or using the Elizabethan collar on a dog to keep it from being able to bite. This will be a handicap for people typing in search boxes perusing Google for websites that curate free downloads of copyrighted content. However this measure is limited because people can always switch and use another search engine or ignore autocomplete as they type.

Source: Search Engine Journal (Southern, 2014)

The change that is spurring some ire in the advertising and marketing industries is related to Google’s advertising. Google says that they are experimenting with their ad formats, and one new option is available to legitimate websites and companies. The problem is, it’s not free, and the companies and websites would have to pay their own way. When someone searches for copyrighted content that the website or company sells, they have the option to pay to be one of the listed recommended websites where someone can purchase or rent said content. There will also be a dropdown of suggested sites for renting or purchasing content in the search box space, similar to what we see when we start typing a search term, the suggested websites will appear along side the autocomplete dropdown (Glenday, 2014).

A point of contention for advertisers, marketers and content providers is the contradiction in Google’s initiative to help fight piracy and at the same time profit from the companies and websites that need Google’s help. It does seem opportunistic and taking advantage of the piracy problem.

Google has quite a few prominent figures attacking its piracy implementations, most notable is James Murdoch who had some harsh words for Google. “There’s no question that they can do more. A lot more. Certainly Google’s not right in saying they’re doing more than anyone. That just isn’t true” (Dredge, 2014). Murdoch is the co-chief operating officer of 20th Century Fox and is part of the Board of Directors at News Corp (Board of Directors | News Corp, n.d.)

James Wootton, who is the director of Media and Advertising at one Britain’s largest advertising trading firms ISBA, said “This is a step in the right direction but with Google seeking to profit directly by ‘being part of the solution’ spoils the sentiment and leaves a bitter aftertaste. —The search engine’s solution clearly disadvantages legal sites. The fight against online piracy is of course welcomed by ISBA, but trying to make a profit out of it is surely not the way to go.” (Davies, 2014)

What are your thoughts on Google’s piracy implementations? Is it enough? Do you agree with Google’s solutions?


Southern, Matt (2014, 17 October). Google Updates Search Algorithm To Weed Out “Notorious” Piracy Sites. The Search Engine Journal. Retrieved from October 25, 2014 from http://www.searchenginejournal.com

Tober, Marcus (2014, October 26). Google Pirate Update Analysis and Loser List. Search Metrics SEO Blog. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from http://blog.searchmetrics.com

Glenday, John (2014, 27, October). Google copyright clampdown sees infringing sites sink 98% in search rankings. The Drum. Retrieved October 27, 2014 from http://www.thedrum.com

Dredge, Stuart (2014, October 13). James Murdoch attacks Google over piracy links. The Guardian. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.theguardian.com

Board of Directors | News Corp. (n.d.). News Corp. Retrieved October 28, 2014, from http://newscorp.com

Davies, Jessica (2014, October 21). Google’s online piracy crackdown is “step in right direction” but leaves a “bitter aftertaste” says ISBA. The Drum. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from http://www.thedrum.com

2 thoughts on “Legitimate Effort or Business As Usual? : How Google Fights Piracy

  1. Well, good for Google for protecting businesses and trying to fight piracy. The problem I see is that people will always find a way around it. They’ll switch search engines, go to chat rooms or forums, head to 4Chan or Reddit, or get recommendations from friends in the know. The internet is the last frontier. It’s going to be impossible to regulate it and Google only a highway and there are many side streets which will still get you where you want.

    Liked by 1 person

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