Google is implementing measures to punish those who engage in piracy and reward rightful content owners.
Piracy has been the bane of retailers' existence for nearly as long as humans have been engaging in commerce. Stolen or illegally duplicated products have been a major issue for both producers who must compete with the cheap knockoffs and consumers who are at risk of buying a faulty replica of the real thing. Additionally, piracy has historically given regulatory and law enforcement bodies fits as it's much harder to detect and monitor the trade of pirated goods.
As if piracy of physical goods wasn't enough, companies must now do battle with pirates and bootleggers in a new battleground - the Internet. Even things that were once difficult to pirate - things like music, movies, books and others - are easily made available as illegal versions, ripe for the taking. Today, if you can name it you can likely find an illegally reproduced copy of it somewhere on the Internet.
This is a nightmare for those in retail merchandising. How can you compete with your own products when they're freely or cheaply available to everyone with an Internet connection?
Google punishes pirates with worse search rankings
Thankfully, retailers of all kinds are not alone in their quest to stave off the efforts of those who would steal or illegally replicate their products. Gigaom reported that Google has made a recent move to hamper online piracy. Everyone in both legitimate businesses and illegal operations knows that today, your Google search ranking is everything. Google's popularity as a search engine means that most people looking for products and services will eventually go through the search titan as they research or buy products. A website that isn't highly ranked for the relevant search terms may as well not exist at all.
Google recently announced that sites known to be providing pirated content will be punished by getting pushed further down in the search engine's page rankings. The tech giant made a similar announcement last year, and as Gigaom noted, this year's action will only intensify Google's prior commitments to stopping piracy through its search engine.
The system will work based on copyright holders' takedown requests for a site they believe is hosting their property without the consent of the owner. If a site crosses a certain threshold of takedown requests from proven copyright holders, Google will take that as a sign the site is in violation of intellectual property laws and move to push the offender down in the search rankings.
How to battle pirates in the open sea of the Internet
In its official report on the subject of online piracy, Google wrote that online piracy exists to fill a gap in consumer demand that legitimate businesses have failed to meet. In light of that, the company stated that the best way to fight piracy is for the owners of the intellectual property and products to provide consumers with better and more convenient services than the knockoffs can.
Google has worked to tip the scales in favor of copyright holders not only by favoring them in search rankings, but by providing platforms on which content creators can display and sell their products. Digital products, as fraught with hazards as they are for intellectual property owners, represent the next frontier for entertainment retailers like movie studios, book and newspaper publishers and record labels.
For example, Google, looking at data from IFPI, reported that the recording industry grew its digital revenue by 4.3 percent in 2013 to $5.9 billion. In addition, Nielsen reported that in 2013 the number of music streams in the U.S. alone grew by 32 percent. Letting the pirates win the battle on the Internet is to sacrifice the future of these retail sectors.
To this end, Google vowed to augment its changes to its search pages with anti-piracy measures throughout the entire business. If a copyright holder reports a YouTube video for stealing its intellectual property, Google will give the creator the option to either have the video removed or to monetize the video, with ad revenues going to the rightful owner of the content. Another key tactic that Google is implementing to the benefit of the content creators is making it easy for them to upload and distribute content through Google Play. This is a clear tie-in to Google's commitment to provide content the myriad ways consumers demand to access and consume media.
As Google stated, fighting piracy is a never-ending battle. Every innovation and measure toward combating copyright infringement will bring an equal response on the part of the pirates who will find a way to circumvent the enforcement of anti-piracy rules. The way forward in the efforts to curb illegally distributed content, then, will be based more around providing great content in ways that consumers want it than it will preventative tactics or retroactive punishment.