Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) plans to introduce changes to its search engine that will discourage piracy by placing legitimate copyrighted content higher in online queries.
The company this week will begin using algorithms that push potentially pirated material to a lower position in search results, Mountain View, California-based Google said in a blog posting on its website Friday.
The move is a peace offering to Hollywood and the music recording labels. This year, Google joined other Silicon Valley heavyweights to help kill legislation that would have given government and content creators more power to shut down foreign websites that promote piracy.
Entertainment companies have been pressing Google for years to take steps to make pirated content harder to find. The new system will use “removal notices,” or complaints from entertainment companies, that a website has received in ranking search results, Amit Singhal, senior vice president for engineering, said on the blog.
Hollywood applauded the move.
“We are optimistic that Google’s actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online,” Michael O’Leary, a senior executive vice president at the Motion Picture Association of America, said in an e-mailed statement.
Lower rankings don’t represent a conclusion that a copyright has actually been violated, Singhal wrote. The company received 4.3 million copyright removal notices in the last 30 days, he said.
“So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner,” Singhal said.
Google will start using “valid copyright removal notices” to rank its search results.
Google typically ranks websites based on how many other sites link to them, on the belief that sites that get more links are more trustworthy and useful. But Google also regularly tweaks its formulas to reflect special circumstances.
In this case, sites with high numbers of copyright-removal notices may get bumped down in rankings. In effect, that will help users find legitimate sources of content without removing any pages from its results completely. Google did not elaborate on what it considers to be valid notices.
Google’s icy relationship with content creators has thawed slightly.
Last month, Google said it would offer a $50-per-month TV package over a super-fast fiber network in a Kansas City test bed. The package would offer mainstream channels including Viacom Inc.’s Nickelodeon.
Google, which is based in Mountain View, Calif., also sells movies and music through its Google Play store on mobile devices that use its Android operating system.
But a $1 billion copyright lawsuit filed by Viacom against Google’s YouTube in 2007 was re-instated by a federal appeals court in April after a lower court threw it out.
And last week, court papers showed that the Authors Guild is demanding Google pay $750 for each of the 20 million books it has scanned in a 7-year-old case.
(Bloomberg and The AP contributed to this report.)