Google Won't Recommend Most Popular Searches If It Thinks It Might Sorta Have Something To Do With Piracy

from the does-mp3-count? dept

In the last few months, there’s been a growing movement by the entertainment industry to blame Google for “piracy.” One of the favorite talking points is the claim that Google is “profiting from piracy,” by linking people to sites that point people to unauthorized infringing copies of content, and then placing ads on those sites. Of course, this ignores the fact that the standard “pirate” out there isn’t exactly the sort of person who goes around clicking on ads either — and is probably a hell of a lot more likely to ignore the ads entirely or use something like Adblock. Either way, it seems like Google has decided to try to end this argument for the industry by announcing some basic changes in how it deals with copyright complaints.

Specifically, it aims to respond faster to DMCA notices — while also providing better counternotice tools. Of course, as we’ve discussed, there have been some problems with the existing takedown process, where people have complained about entire blogs and blogposts disappearing due to unclear copyright claims. A little over a year ago, the company claimed it had revamped its DMCA takedown process for Blogger at least, so it’s not clear how much of this new effort is revamping that old fix or just expanding it.

The company also says it’ll be more diligent in rejecting AdSense on sites that provide infringing content. This was the key point that the industry folks were complaining about all the time, though I’d imagine (as noted above) that Google really isn’t giving up much here at all, as I would doubt those sites actually bring in much revenue anyway. What is a little concerning is how, exactly, Google determines what sites are “providing infringing materials.” After all, some argue that Google itself does that. Google is free to deny AdSense to whoever they want, so this isn’t a huge deal, but contrary to the industry’s claims, it’s not always easy to tell what sites provide infringing materials and which do not. This should be clear from Homeland Security’s seizing of the domains of some blogs that the industry regularly used to promote their own works.

The other thing that Google is doing is apparently preventing “terms that are closely associated with piracy from appearing in Autocomplete.” This is in response to the complaint that when people use Google and do a search on a song or a movie, autocomplete often shows that the top search for that song or movie is the title and something like the word “bittorrent.” Google notes:

While it’s hard to know for sure when search terms are being used to find infringing content, we’ll do our best to prevent Autocomplete from displaying the terms most frequently used for that purpose.

Again… Google is underplaying just how hard that really is… and just how much this kind of thing changes over time. For example, five years ago, I would imagine that searches for “mp3” were mostly about infringing content. But, because of that, over time, the recording industry was forced to adapt and admit that mp3 wasn’t evil and was the preferred format. These days, of course, the entertainment industry insists that “bittorrent” or just “torrent” is somehow a bad term. But five years from now, that might not be the case. Having Google purposely hide such search results has the potential to distort the market in some ways, and actually delay much needed adaptation by the industry.

All in all, these moves aren’t a huge surprise, given the complaints of some in the industry, but it’ll be worth watching to see if the unintended consequences come back to bite both Google and the industry. Pretending that what’s actually happening in the world isn’t happening is not exactly a smart business strategy.

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Companies: google

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Comments on “Google Won't Recommend Most Popular Searches If It Thinks It Might Sorta Have Something To Do With Piracy”

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Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Look at the stuff you’ve had to write about recently.

I see a bunch of really desperate last gasp efforts from a group of folks who don’t understand basic technology, thinking that what they’ll do will have an impact… all while folks who actually understand what’s happening go about their business happily.

I’m not sure where the “denial” is in there.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

Well I guess we won’t be seeing stories about piracy crackdowns anymore.

Heh. You do realize that every one of these “crackdowns” has resulted in more file sharing, not less, right?

…like say, the fact that Demonoid up and fled their TLD today for one based in Montenegro.

Which sort of supports my point, doesn’t it? File sharing isn’t going away. It’s do to stupid moves like thinking these kinds of “crackdowns” are effective that you keep driving people further and further away from opportunities to embrace them and do more with them. You keep shooting yourself in the foot each time and then cheering on how you’re killing your toes. It’s insanity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Re:

Yeah, so fleeing to a new domain in Montenegro is going to save them? They’re being pushed further underground, out of the mainstream. Which has been the goal the entire time.

A year from now if you want to use Demonoid you’re going to have to move to Montenegro with them. Be sure to send a postcard, I hear it’s nice there.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:5 Re:

A year from now if you want to use Demonoid you’re going to have to move to Montenegro with them

And thus, our anonymous fool again shows he does not understand technology. Which is exactly what we said at the beginning of this thread.

Seriously, for your own good, I would suggest (a) understanding technology and (b) learning what it is that we’re actually saying here. In the other thread where we are talking, you have made it clear that you do not even understand what we are saying, blatantly lying and pretending that we’re arguing against record labels, when we have said the exact opposite:

What amazes me is that even after we’ve proven you wrong, your response isn’t to recognize that you’ve made a mistake, but to simply DENY reality. Again, that was the same point that we kicked off this thread by making.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Re:

ok, so just linked to one of your tirades about the labels where you make sweeping generalizations about how all musicians are paid by all labels. So how did I get tha wrong again?

Demonoid can move to Mars if they want. By this time next year COICA will prevent it from being used in the US.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:7 Re:

“Demonoid can move to Mars if they want. By this time next year COICA will prevent it from being used in the US.”

…and if that happens, the other hundreds of thousands of trackers/torrent search sites will take over from what they’re doing, as well as increases in encrypted file sharing being encouraged.

At what point in all that is “piracy” truly “cracked down” upon?

anothermike says:

Re: Re: Re:9 Re:

It is a hydra, but you’re no Hercules.
The first sites to be taken down in the old guards’ crusade were the ones stupid enough to try and work with the media companies. And for every one cut down, several more popped up in its place, each one less willing to submit to the old guard than the last.
The current state of affairs has the old media companies desperately searching for all these “underground pirate sites” while the sites themselves connect with fans easier and more conveniently than ever before.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:6 Bullshit


Piracy existed long before your worthless ass.

Back in the vinyl days, they called it bootlegging.

I like that term much better than piracy, myself; conjures up images of the Roaring 20’s, bathtub gin, all night parties, etc…


The goal of law enforcement isn’t to completely stop crime, but to manage it in a way that keeps it from infringing on the rights of society’s law abiding citizens.

Go do some leeching.

Also think about whether or not the world would have been better off had your Dad just pulled out.

Feel free to tell us what good you’ve contributed to the world.

Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:8 Bullshit

Yeah, leeching is just impolite.

Here’s one thing pirates have contributed to the world: they’re causing record companies to go out of business. They are the REAL leeches; worthless, undeserving brickheads sucking profit from the hands of those who actually do the work. More and more musicians are using Youtube and other social media to go into business for themselves, making far more money being modestly successful than they would ever get being wildly successful within the old-school industry.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

…like say, the fact that Demonoid up and fled their TLD today for one based in Montenegro.

This is a perfect example of why “anti-piracy” operations actively harm the U.S.

Demonoid is still as active as they ever were. They are still accessible around the world, including the U.S. No infringement has been halted.

What this has done is taken money from American tech companies (Verisign) and given them to companies located overseas. If the U.S. government ever gets around to seizing servers, the “pirates” will move to overseas ISP’s as well.

“Good riddance,” you say? Well, it’s true that ISP’s don’t make much money on pirate sites. But it won’t just be “pirates.” It’ll be any site that hosts user-generated content, and any site that runs a search engine. Since it’s impossible (and immoral) for e.g. a social networking site to monitor their users, even legitimate sites will move all their data to some foreign server farm, “just to be safe.”

You’ve just killed the U.S. ISP industry, to do something that won’t effect piracy at all, and wouldn’t create more jobs even if it did. And you’ve created totalitarianism in the process.


Re: Re: Re:4 Collateral Damage

The entire set of Big Content industries is not worth the collateral damage caused to protect them. This includes the cost in ruined lives, lost business, and increased operating costs to corporations.

Technology impacts everyone, not just Hollywood. Ruin technology and you harm every company in the Fortune 500 and the Global 1000.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I heard that in the 80’s(Don’t copy that floppy), I heard that in the 90’s and I heard that in the 00’s, after all this time you people keep believing, that is impressive.

In 2020 I bet I will still hear you saying the same thing after increased sharing…oops I mean piracy reach new heights in the 10’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Interesting move

Note how brilliant this is: they are censoring only the autocomplete, but not the search results. This takes pressure off Google’s back (“look, we are doing something!”) while still keeping their firm line that they will not meddle with the search results (other than removing specific URLs, while adding the corresponding chillingeffects link).

anothermike says:

Re: Interesting move

I just looked into this. It only affects autocomplete and instant results.
As we all know, Google let’s you filter search results on file type; for example, entering ‘filetype:torrent’ after your search term cuts out everything that isn’t a .torrent file.
As recently as last weekend, autocomplete and instant results would start showing you links immediately. But since this change earlier in the week, you get no results until you hit ‘Enter’. Google still provides all the same results as before, it just takes an extra key press.
The end result is that the ostriches get to bury their heads in the sand where they can’t see us continuing on with business as usual. I’d like to extend my congratulations to them on their success.

Steve R. (profile) says:

Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

Once companies roll-over to appease a special interest group to “block” so-called offending material; every special interest group will start demanding the right to block content or to even force feed you specific content. has apparently caved in to government demands to block access to Wikileaks.

Want to checkout the lunch specials at the McDonalds website, well you can after viewing a PETA presentation on how McDonalds abuses animals. Michelle Obama may even have a government sponsored video offering some friendly advice on “healthy” food alternatives to McDonalds. The future of the internet.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

Following the law: Good

Breaking the law: Bad

See? That wasn’t so hard. So glad I could relieve you of your FUD.

I assume you don’t use a VCR, DVR or an MP3 player or anything like that, right? After all, when those all came out, your favorite industry declared them all to be breaking the law, and thus, bad.

Which is, again, the point that we’re making which you seem to have so much trouble understanding.

The Invisible Hand (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

Then you are doing it wrong.

I was skeptical about jamendo when I first heard of it, but once I started listening, I can’t stop.

Here’s my personal list of favorite artists I found till now (I hope I don’t get the names wrong):

– Talco (Combat rock…or so they call it)
– Mortad Hell (metal…not great, but they have some songs I enjoyed)
– Diablo Swing Orchestra (this one is just great. Not sure how to classify it, but I’d call it metal)
– Melqurt (rock/metal)
– Prana Yama (Techno)

Try them if you dare. But I bet you won’t. Your type is afraid of trying something new. I’ll keep expanding my musical horizons, and I’ll keep refusing to eat the mainstream crap your kind keeps trying to shove down my throat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

Playing now:

by bilk

You see, if your not there, you are out of my radar, Jamendo is the place where I feel safe against people like you and it’s one of the places I promote to everyone.

You think people need you?
You think you are so important that there is no one else in the world?
You think I need to put up with you?

You are not the sun in my life dude.
You may think you are important/irreplaceable but you be wrong.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

“I tried it and couldn’t find a single artist worth listening to.”

Whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it wrong. I’ll hazard a guess that you were looking for “known” artists or you have a predilection toward soulless corporate pop music. Anyone with an open mind can find decent music on there. Not to say it’s all high quality (it’s not, admittedly), but nothing? Unlikely, if you’re honest.

cc (profile) says:

Re: Re: Who decides what Consitutes good or bad?

Respecting a stupid law: Stupid

Changing a stupid law: Clever

Draconian enforcement won’t win you this fight, and the more you push the people, the more likely it is they’ll push back. If you push past the breaking point, you risk receiving a knee-jerk reaction that strips you of all copyright privileges.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Having Google purposely hide such search results has the potential to distort the market in some ways, and actually delay much needed adaptation by the industry. “

They are not hiding results, it is they are going to make you type out the entire query instead of just the first couple of letters.

Instead of typing the pir and then hitting enter you will have to type the the pirate bay.

Anonymous Coward says:

Yeah, so fleeing to a new domain in Montenegro is going to save them? They’re being pushed further underground, out of the mainstream. Which has been the goal the entire time.”

blind, or jsut a failtroll?

yeah pushign the scene further underground has worked so well up until now. We went from a few limited ap’s (napster) who might have been willing to work with the content industries, to thousands of sites with more everyday, who could give a damn less about content industries, government sanctions, or goon squads.

Back up servers in a dozen countries and mirrors available on demand.

Hell they couldn’t even kill Limewire, and no one even USES that anymore.

Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Re:

What’s ridiculous is the sheer blind certainty these guys have about their actions. Like…’oh we can just take their domains, it’s easy!’ followed by ‘oh we can just kick them out of the country, it’s easy.’ followed by ‘oh we can just implement a filtering system it’s *sigh* not that easy.’ followed by ‘oh we can just set up a national firewall it’s kind of difficult…’ followed by ‘oh we can just unplug the internet entirely this is gonna be a pain in the ass’ followed by ‘oh we can just…outlaw…airwaves? It’s…? Is that even physically possible?’ followed, ultimately, by “ahhhh fuck us. We give up.”

See if they just skipped to the last one, they’d save a TON of money, time, and heartache.

Karl (profile) says:

Unintended consequences

The problem with this whole thing is the idea that if Google can do it, everyone else should be forced to.

Mark my words: within a couple years, Congress will write some law requiring that all user-generated content sites implement some form of “ContentID” system.

The next step after that is requiring that all search sites deliberately block “infringing sites.”

None of this will make a dent in piracy, of course, since none of them have to date. What they will do is make it near-impossible for American tech startups to become financially solvent.

Right now, America’s technology sector is one of the few that is still profitable and growing. We’re shooting our entire future economy in the ass just to appease companies who are failing fast, and never contributed to the overall economy anyway (or at the very least never paid a living wage to their employees).

Eugene (profile) says:

Re: Unintended consequences

Psh, don’t cry for the startups. A system like you’re suggesting would effectively give the US an automated gestapo, allowing them to block any site that doesn’t have their “papers” so to speak, which of course they’d have the power to give and take away. Even if it’s indirectly. The definition of “infringing” would become “any site the government doesn’t agree with”.

Even though Google is humoring the industry here, I seriously doubt they’d go for a proposal like that. They have money, they can be lobbyists too.

Karl (profile) says:

Re: Re: Unintended consequences

Psh, don’t cry for the startups.

Well, I bring it up because one of the government’s usual justifications is that they’re “protecting American jobs.” They cite (fictitious) statistics of jobs lost to “piracy,” implying that if they don’t bring down the jackboots, our economy will suffer.

I’m just pointing out that the reverse is true. It won’t stop Big Media jobs from being lost (that will happen with or without piracy), but it will lose jobs in the tech sector. A sector which is more valuable to our economy than Big Media ever was. (profile) says:

Re: Unintended consequences

Mark my words: within a couple years, Congress will write some law requiring that all user-generated content sites implement some form of “ContentID” system.

Already being planned in Germany. To protect children and youngsters websites with “adult” content will be forced to rate their sites to make them inaccsessible to parents installing filter programs. OR have them online only at certain times like 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

I kid you not.

TDR says:

Anonymous, do something for me. Give me an exact chain of causality to show in specific detail how the sharing of a specific file directly harms a specific artist, using only non-entertainment industry data. Show me, step by step, with detailed, independently verified references, how this happens. If you can’t, you’re wrong and admit it.

sum guy says:

the most disturbing thing about this is the precedent it sets. the message here is if you complain long enough and loudly enough google or amazon or whomever, will change their policies to suit you. the thing i’ve always admired most about google is their sticking by their guns and rightly saying we don’t favor or disfavor websites, its just the page rank algorithm. the fact that google has become so dominant in the search space is all the proof needed that this concept works. this latest move, however, is dangerously close to removing results because some AA group doesn’t like what people are searching for. well so what? a lot of people/companies/organizations don’t like the results that autocomplete suggests. But what they need to be concerned about is that autocomplete is the result of most common searches, not the cause of people searching.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Re:

” But what they need to be concerned about is that autocomplete is the result of most common searches, not the cause of people searching.”

I wasn’t going to point that out because of all the trolls and industry types we have here, hiding under the bridges and just listening. But now that you have …

Hiding the word torrent from google type ahead won’t make a bit of difference. When you see kids in grade school at the mall talking about how their friend sent the a URL to a torrent to download an album. Then watch as one kid e-mails all the kids around him the link via cell phone. Its already to late.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: Stop linking to any music or movie studio

Google Blog-Press release …

In the current climate of confiscation of web domain names. And due to the risks associated with linking to any video or music files we are removing the ability to search for all musical artists associated with the following record labels, Sony, Time Warner, BMG, and EMI. We are also removing the ability to search for all movies listed in the IMDB ….

It would be a repeat of the UK YouTube fiasco 2 years back.

Boris_noes_best (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Google does profit from Piracy btw. Do your research. It’s just NOW they want to profit more from Google TV, etc. so they are trading in ad revenue for other forms of revenue. Face it folks, Google is in the business to make money not to offer us a service. It’s not shocking they are making adjustments in their business model to reflect the changing nature of their business interests.

They don’t care about the pirates, consumers, or tech geeks. They want to make money and will do what it take to do so. Guess what, so will the rest of them.

Yeah, the torrent mongers can move their servers, whatever. There’s is a dying universe. Buh-bye.

Anonymous Coward says:

hilarious thread, but i guess this stuff goes on all the time here…

for those posters who think the industrial/entertainment complex can win this arms race:

1) if you can see it or hear it, you can copy it.
2) if you can copy it, you can give it to somebody else and nobody – not the **AA’s, not COICA, not the Government – can stop you.
3) if you can duplicate it infinitely at no cost, then it’s value – in absolute terms – is zero.

sorry, folks – that’s life in the digital age.

BruceLD says:


They should try taking on Facebook for allowing anyone to link to infringing content you Youtube.

Yes, take on one of the wealthiest and most powerful technology companies in the world. It’s not as easy as extorting money from poor people that can not afford to defend themselves against greedy lawyers that base an admission of guilt on something as simple as an IP address. ๐Ÿ˜‰

pringerX (profile) says:

Just... wow.

Mike, you were remarkably prescient in being concerned about the ICE seizure of the torrent search engine. Looks like they are starting to encroach on Google too.

You are pretty short-sighted if you don’t realize the ramifications of these TLD seizures. This is like the government saying “We can confiscate your possessions as we please”, no warrant or warning required.

AJ says:

A bright side?

Let me see if I understand this. The AA?s lobby the politicians to go after the file sharers. The file sharers then decentralize, or collect in private networks. They begin to encrypt their traffic and route around or through the blocks. The average user now knows more about how traffic works, and understands basic encryption making them safer overall.

Sounds like a win-win to me. The politicians get their money, and the internet/average user is safer. I wonder what the N.S.A/C.I.A/F.B.I. and such think about teaching the average user how to use encryption. Bet their not happy?.

Cowardly Anon says:

This sounds like a trap to me. Honestly.

Google has been saying for years ‘we can’t tell if something is infringing,’ but now they are going to tweak their algorithms so that AdSense doesn’t show up on sites that provide infringing content?

So they can tell if something is infringing huh?

Sounds like a slippery slope to me. I’m pretty sure this decision is going to come back to bite them in a very bad way in the future.

bdhoro (profile) says:

What about google torrent search?

Just type it into Google! type google torrent search and click “I’m feelin lucky” you’ll be taken to this site:

Which is a google dedicated torrent search page. Yeah it doesn’t support auto-complete though so they have nothing to do with torrents.

anothermike says:

Re: Too nice

Commenters like Anonymous should be politely corrected, not sequestered or insulted. Treating them poorly only reinforces their belief that they have some information that “the establishment” doesn’t want released.
As in dealing with conspiracy hypothesists and other reality deniers, they need their false information corrected with well-referenced proof and assistance with debate techniques (prima facie, strawmen, etc.)
The end goal of this, like any education, is to gain a new member in the community who can join us in intelligent debates on the issues affecting us.

Stuart Dredge (user link) says:

Some extra info

As I understand it, Google is most definitely NOT hiding search results – just not suggesting terms like torrent in its autocomplete. So if you search for Lady Gaga Torrent, you’ll still get all the same links. It’s just that casual searchers who type ‘lady gaga’ won’t be auto prompted to add ‘torrent’.

It sounds small but Google were very firm about this point yesterday – they’re not removing sites from their search results. To the point that the BPI have criticised Google today for not doing that.

The other thing is that Google say they are going to make it easier for web users (eg Blogger users) to file counter notices against takedowns. How this fits with making takedown requests easier for rights holders remains to seen, but again, Google was very keen to stress this point – I’m assuming this is a response to the recent blog takedown controversies.

Anonymous Coward says:

They appear to be blocking more than autocomplete. After a couple of searches that could be interpreted as searching for copyrighted material, Google displays a message to the effect that they are blocking the search for an unspecified period of time because “your IP has been searching for stuff that violates our terms of service.” That says to me that they are storing your searches and your IP address and can use them against you as they please. Frankly, it seems not too different from the censorship they have been doing at the behest of the Chinese government.

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