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No More Mr. Nice Search Engine: Google’s New Copyright Policy


If you have a million-dollar investment, you protect it with metal bars or industrial security gates that are as strong as humanly possible. And that’s exactly what the entertainment industry has been asking Google to do for years, in a figurative sense, by urging the company to punish sites that traffic in pirated material.

After resisting the pressure for so long, Google has suddenly reversed its decision. It has said it will bump web sites that have sustained many copyright infraction notices down in its rankings, to the relief of recording and movie studios.

Now that it’s no more Mr. Nice Search Engine, is your business’s web site at risk of seeing its search ranking drop? Here’s what you need to know about Google’s new policy.

Sites Won’t Be Knocked Off Listings Entirely

The first thing to understand is that even a site that caters to illegal downloaders won’t be knocked off of Google’s listings. It will simply appear much further down in the results list, meaning that there’s a smaller chance it will be found by searchers.

That could lead to decreased traffic to the site, but if someone is determined enough, they’ll still find a site even if it ranks dead last on Google.

Google Won’t Monitor Copyright Infringement Accusations Itself

At first glance it would seem that Google is turning into the online police, but the search giant won’t actually be monitoring sites for potential copyright violations itself.

Instead it will rely on the site’s record of valid copyright removal notices. A site that has received, for example, 1,000 of these will rank much lower in search results than one that has received two. The idea is to push the sites peddling legit, non-bootlegged content to the top of the search rankings.

You Can Challenge Copyright Removal Notices

What if your site receives a copyright removal notice – does that mean your search ranking will go into free fall? Not necessarily. You can challenge the notice if you feel you’ve been unfairly targeted, and if you win that challenge, the notice will be removed and will not impact your ranking.

Self-Policing May Help

Not every site that’s been hit with a copyright infringement notice is the next Napster. Many sites don’t even realize they have pirated content; it could be as simple as a fun video you posted from YouTube that, as it turns out, was not authorized.

Comb your website for potential violations. Even something that seems innocuous, like a bit of audio that plays when the web site is loaded, could be flagged as an infringement.

If you keep these tips in mind, your web site should remain safely atop Google’s search rankings even with the new policy.

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