Google has agreed to start penalising websites that share pirated content in a move that could see the end of some popular file sharing websites. For some websites, this update will be as damaging as the notorious Penguin updates. However, while this is possibly the biggest Google search story so far in 2017, it is one that should not affect many UK businesses.
What Content Will Be Penalised?
Google will be applying a penalty to websites that share most types of pirated content, from sites that stream live football matches to those that provide free music and film downloads.
There are essentially three ways pirated content is shared online: streamed content, direct downloads and torrents. Streamed content has recently become the most popular method, simply because it is so easy for the consumer. Sites host movies and music on their web servers which is then streamed to a computer or mobile device. These sites use the same methods to share content as YouTube, Amazon, Netflix and Now TV, but the main difference being that they do not have permission from the owner to do so – they break copyright. These sites are used mostly by impulsive viewers who do not wish to plan their viewing or listening in advance.
Some sites provide direct downloads of music and film, which is like purchasing a digital download, only its free. Because downloads can take a while to complete, depending on the internet connection speeds of the host and the downloader, these sites are usually used by those who are actively seeking a specific film or album and willing to wait for the download to complete – it can take hours, or even days, for a large file.
Torrent sites provide a faster way to download movies, and have become the most popular way to share high definition films – it is possible to download 5 Gb Blu-ray rips in as little as 20 minutes.
These sites have one thing in common – they generate revenue through advertising on the back of sharing content illegally. The music and film industry has suffered huge losses because of this, and asked Google and other search engines to take some action.
UK ISPs Already Block Many Pirate Sites
The blocking of pirate websites is not a new phenomenon – many UK ISPs already block access to sites such as The Pirate Bay, which is one of the largest and most popular torrent sharing sites. However, because Google still indexes these sites, searchers can quickly find pirated content.
Of course, many people have no intention of stealing content, but if they stumble across some free content on the web, the chances are, they will take advantage of it.
As with any major search update, there is bound to be some collateral damage. Google always aims to incorporate search updates into the algorithm, as opposed to creating manual penalties for each website. Google has very good reason to automate the process – in the six years since it Google started counting, it has removed copyrighted content from one million websites, and to date, Google has removed 2.1 billion URLs from its index.
Google’s Pirate Algorithm
However, before panic strikes, we you remind you that this is not Google’s first attempt at an anti-pirate algorithm – Google first started penalising pirate sites in 2012, and then launched a major update in 2015.
These original updates penalised sites that had already received copyright violation complaints. However, the conclusion following these updates was simple – it is not enough to abate digital piracy.
Although most businesses should not be negatively impacted, it is important to remember that stolen images and videos are digital copyright theft, so any website that has used images or videos without permission could in theory find itself penalised in Google, so be warned. If you concerned that your business website contains pirated content, request a review of your onsite SEO today.