Google moves to combat piracy in search results

Google (s GOOG) is tweaking its algorithm to address piracy in search results. The company announced on the official Google Search blog today that next week it 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.”

Google notes it won’t actually remove possibly pirated content from search results unless it gets a notice from the copyright owner, but the move is a step to push legal content higher in search results — so a query like, say, “Watch Mad Men online” should direct users to AMC’s site before an illegal streaming site.

The film and music industries have long pushed Google to tackle piracy more proactively. A case underway in France could force Google to censor terms like “torrent” from its autocomplete results. And the number of copyright-infringement takedown notices that Google receives has increased sharply in recent months. The week of January 2, 2012, Google received 239,189 such notices; last week, it got just over a million.

Michael O’Leary of the Motion Picture Association of America released a statement:

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. 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.