It would appear that Google has partially caved to the music and movie industry. An update to the way search results are ranked will see pirate sites and other illegitimate content sources showing up lower in the results. As you may or may not know, Google looks at around 200 different signals to rank pages and the newest one is directly tied to piracy.
The latest signal to be used in ranking pages will be directly related to "the number of valid copyright removal notices" received for a given site. This means that sites which receive a large number of valid removal notices may appear lower in Google's search results. Google explains why this is a good thing:
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.
As Google points out, only copyright holders know whether or not something is authorized and only the courts are capable of deciding whether it infringes a copyright. This means that they will not be removing links unless a valid removal notice is received; instead, they will just appear lower in the results.
Google has promised to continue to be transparent about removal requests and to provide "counter-notice" tools that will aid people to reinstate their content if it has been wrongly removed. The full announcement by Google is posted below:
We aim to provide a great experience for our users and have developed over 200 signals to ensure our search algorithms deliver the best possible results. 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. 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.
Since we re-booted our copyright removals over two years ago, we've been given much more data by copyright owners about infringing content online. In fact, we're now receiving and processing more copyright removal notices every day than we did in all of 2009-more than 4.3 million URLs in the last 30 days alone. We will now be using this data as a signal in our search rankings.
Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed; Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law. So while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won't be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner. And we'll continue to provide "counter-notice" tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated. We'll also continue to be transparent about copyright removals.