Google and Bing reach agreement in UK to demote pirate websites in search results

Leave it to our friends across the ocean to make some (apparent) progress in the ongoing war against online piracy.  According to a story published in The Guardian this week Google and Microsoft have agreed to make changes as to where links to pirated content appear in search results on Google and Bing.

Search engine companies Google and Bing have signed up to a voluntary code of practice aimed at preventing users from visiting disreputable content providers. The code, the first of its kind in the UK, will accelerate the demotion of illegal sites following notices from rights holders. It means those who search for content such as music videos, digital books and football coverage will more likely to be taken to bona fide providers rather than pirate sites, where a user’s security may be at risk.

Reportedly, the changes are supposed to be in place by this summer but put me into the category of “I’ll believe it when i see it.”  There’s no mention of how extensive this new approach to results will be.  Will it extend beyond the borders of the UK and cover the EU and/or the entire world?  There’s also no information as to how exactly the “deprecation” will be triggered?  Will it be based on total DMCA takedown requests or other legal efforts like court action?  I look forward to seeing what comes of this effort and hope it extends beyond the borders of the UK.

I’ve written in the past about ways in which Google search could cut the number of takedown notices it receives (and the number of pirate links that populate its results) in a piece “How Google could reduce its massive DMCA takedown numbers.”  Here’s an excerpt from that post:

Why not temporarily block top offenders? Pirate sites could risk losing traffic for failure to deal with takedown requests

Google-Pirate-takedowns-listWhat type of pressure am I talking about? I’m suggesting Google create a team to focus on the domains at the top of the complaint list.  Google purports to down-rank these domains already, but those claims don’t match up with reality.  The company should go further to investigate, and temporarily block, the top offenders from Google’s search results.

If Google blocked the top domains reported for piracy for 30 days, site operators might be induced to better respond to copyright complaints, or risk losing crucial Google search traffic. In essence, it could be a self-regulating, temporary punishment leading ultimately to a correction…

  • Domain blockedGoogle top domains reported for piracy
  • Domain cleans up its act
  • Complaints to Google decrease
  • Domain drops out of top offender list
  • Domain’s links restored to Google search

If a site operator continued to ignore takedown requests and the domain remains atop of the complaint list, the block could be extended to 90 days, then 180, etc.  The initial blockade could be reviewed by a human team, but once added a site is in the queue, Google’s much vaunted algorithms could likely handle such a process.

It seems as though this latest “agreement” may end up serving the same end.  At this point it’s too early to tell, but any progress on this front is still progress. As they say in cliche-world, only time will tell.