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RIAA Grades Google’s ‘Anti-Piracy Algorithm’ and (Surprise!) Google Gets an F

As you might recall if you follow copyright and piracy-related news, Google announced back in August that it was going to start taking into account the number of valid copyright removal notices it received for any given site, and use that measure as one factor in where such sites appear in Google’s search response pages.

As Senior Vice President of Engineering Amit Singhal put it at the time, “Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results. 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.”

Yesterday, the RIAA issued a “report card” on the effects of Google’s altered algorithm, and to say that the RIAA isn’t impressed would be an understatement.

Right up front in the report’s Executive Summary, the authors put it flatly: “Six months later, we have found no evidence that Google’s policy has had a demonstrable impact on demoting sites with large amounts of piracy.”

Citing specific measures as the basis for its claim, the RIAA further notes that the sites analyzed “all of which were serial infringers per Google’s Copyright Transparency Report, were not demoted in any significant way in the search results and still managed to appear on page 1 of the search results over 98% of the time in the searches conducted…. [i]n fact, these sites consistently showed up in 3 to 5 of the top 10 search results.”

The RIAA’s analysis rings true to us here at DMCA Force, as we’ve observed the same lack of change among the rankings of known pirate sites. There are sites we have asked Google to remove tens of thousands of links to via our take down requests, and yet these same sites consistently rank in the top 10 responses to searches for our clients products. In many cases, these sites rank in the top 10 positions for searches relating to materials that we have repeatedly requested removal of from that very site.

I’m inclined to cut Google a little more slack than the RIAA does, but overall, I have to agree with the RIAA’s bottom line opinion: “[W]hatever Google has done to its search algorithms to change the ranking of infringing sites, it doesn’t appear to be working.”