Google to add SOPA-like anti-piracy filter to search results

digital-piracy-skull-and-swords-binary

It’s about to get a lot harder to find pirated music, movies, e-books, and software through Google Search.

In a clear effort to appease the Hollywood entertainment gods, Google announced today that it plans to change its algorithm to push websites repeatedly accused of copyright infringement further down its search page ranking.

“Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results,” wrote Amit Singhal, Google Senior Vice President of Engineering, on the company blog. “This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily — whether it’s a song previewed on NPR’s music website, a TV show on Hulu, or new music streamed from Spotify.”

The planned algorithm change is one of the most proactive anti-piracy measures ever employed by Google, which repeatedly came under direct fire during the debates surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) for profiting (through advertising) off of online piracy. While those bills essentially died in mid-January thanks to an outpouring of opposition from Web users, the changes announced today by Google go a long way toward achieving similar censorship effects.

Recording Industry Association of American (RIAA) Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman was quick to praise Google’s actions as a win for the entertainment industry, artists and labels alike.

“Today Google has announced a potentially significant change in its search rankings that can make a meaningful difference to creators: sites that are the subject of large numbers of copyright removal notices may be ranked lower in search results than before,” said Sherman in a statement. “This should result in improved rankings for the licensed music services that pay artists and deliver fans the music they love. This change is an important step in the right direction – a step we’ve been urging Google to take for a long time – and we commend the company for its action.”

The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) also praised Google’s action, but took a more skeptical tone in its congratulations. 

“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, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe,” said Michael O’Leary, MPAA Senior Executive Vice President for Global Policy and External Affairs, in a statement (pdf). “We will be watching this development closely — the devil is always in the details — and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves.”

Google says it is able to implement this change to its algorithm thanks to the vast number of copyright violation notices, filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that it now receives. Singhal noted that Google has received requests to remove “more than 4.3 million URLs” in the past 30 days alone — more than the Internet giant received in all of 2009.

What do you think of Google’s algorithm change? Was it right, wrong, dumb, or just plain inevitable? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Movies & TV

He created comics, movies, and superheroes. But Stan Lee lived for joy

Stan Lee was a creator, a celebrity, an icon, and beneath it all, a real-life good guy with all the same human qualities that made his superheroes so relatable. And his greatest joy was sharing his creations with the world.
Wearables

Google's Wear OS update 'H' promises battery life improvements

Google has rebranded its Android Wear operating system to Wear OS. Removing the Android name may help people better understand Google-powered smartwatches, which also play nice with iOS devices. 
Home Theater

Google Chromecast and Chromecast Ultra: Everything you need to know

Google's Chromecast plugs into your TV's HDMI port, allowing you to stream content from your tablet, laptop, or smartphone directly to your TV. Here's what you need to know about all iterations, including the 4K-ready Chromecast Ultra.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Computing

Stop your PC's vow of silence with these tips on how to fix audio problems

Sound problems got you down? Don't worry, with a few tweaks and tricks we'll get your sound card functioning as it should, and you listening to your favorite tunes and in-game audio in no time.
Movies & TV

One popular character won't be returning for 'John Wick 3: Parabellum'

The third installment of the wildly successful action series that stars Keanu Reeves as a deadly assassin forced out of retirement, John Wick 3: Parabellum, hits theaters in May 2019. Here's everything we know about the movie so far.
Movies & TV

Star Wars series 'The Mandalorian' adds 'Deadpool' actress Gina Carano

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Home Theater

What is MHL, exactly, and how does it work with your TV?

There are more ways to mirror your smartphone or tablet to your TV than you might think. Check out our rundown of MHL for everything you need to know about the wired protocol and its myriad uses.
Music

The best movie soundtracks of all time, from 'Star Wars' to 'E.T.'

Whether you're a lover of beautifully composed original scores or a fan of perfectly compiled popular music, these are the best movie soundtracks of all time — from Star Wars to Garden State.
Home Theater

From the Roku Ultra to the Fire TV Cube, these are the best streaming devices

There are more options for media streamers than ever, so it’s more difficult to pick the best option. But that’s why we're here. Our curated list of the best streaming devices will get you online in no time.
Home Theater

Put your home theater to the test with these spectacular Blu-ray releases

What's the point of having all of that awesome home theater gear if you can't breed a little jealousy in your friends and family? We've put together this list of fantastic Blu-rays that have the goods to drop a few jaws.
Movies & TV

Is the end near for Pied Piper? ‘Silicon Valley’ season 6 delayed, might be the last

Season 6 of Silicon Valley might not premiere until 2020, as HBO has delayed production on the season until summer 2019 due to showrunner Alec Berg's work on another HBO series, Barry. Season 6 could be the final one for the show.
Movies & TV

How to watch NFL games online, with or without cable

The NFL's 2018 season is here, and we know you don't want to miss a moment of the action. Our comprehensive streaming guide will show you all the best options to watch the games online so you can make the right choice.
Movies & TV

'Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald' will seem muddled to mere muggles

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald brings magizoologist Newt Scamander back for more adventures, but the sequel to 2016's Harry Potter spinoff Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them takes a very deep dive into Potter-verse lore.