A few weeks ago those of us who have been long concerned about the problem of online piracy got a pleasant surprise: Google announced that it would begin penalizing sites that host pirated materials by building into their algorithm a penalty for valid takedown requests.
In other words, if a particular site becomes "known" to Google's algorithm as generating a high number of valid takedown requests, the site will be lowered in Google's search results.
IPI commends Google for this announced change in policy. We hope it works, and we'd like to see other search engines take similar steps.
Google's announced new policy is rational and responsible. Copyright piracy is criminal activity, and corporate citizenship at the very least demands that companies are not "neutral" with regard to criminal activity. Penalizing websites in terms relative to their infringing traffic is a logical first (if minimal) step in a responsible approach to online piracy.
Piracy is a huge problem to content creators, and a major part of that creative activity takes place in the United States, creating jobs here and paying taxes here. Making a marginal dent in online piracy would clearly have a positive economic impact on our economy, as IPI's significant work in this area has suggested.
So everyone should do their part to voluntarily address the problem of piracy, and Google has taken an important step in the right direction.
Of course, more needs to be done to combat online piracy. Huge amounts of money are being made exploiting online piracy for criminal purposes. The ultimate solution is probably a combination of legislation and voluntary good citizenship by companies, such asthe new voluntary Copyright Alert System (CAS), and Google’s algorithm changes.
Google's move is a commendable step in the right direction. We hope it's effectively implemented, and we hope that we’re beginning to see a trend of voluntary, cooperative steps toward a healthier Internet ecosystem for all.