Stop Thief Column: The Pirate Penalty

On August 10, Google announced plans to implement what is being called the “Pirate Penalty” with the following blog post by Senior Vice President Amit Singhal:

 “…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…”

This announcement goes hand-in-hand with Google publishing its Transparency Report in May of this year. The Transparency Report listed the most egregious copyright infringing sites, and it was populated by the usual suspects from The Pirate Bay and Filestube to and

The Transparency Report was the culmination in a nearly yearlong overhaul of Google’s DMCA policy. Prior to this, the search engine was known to routinely take weeks to process a simple DMCA notice, leaving copyright holders frustrated much to the delight of content thieves.

The problem of pirate sites getting preferential treatment from Google had reached epidemic levels. An August 2012 experiment by revealed that Google searches for songs from the last eight years of the Billboard Top 10 and Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs of All-Time returned a pirate site in 90 percent of the top five results.

Other piracy havens like torrent sites are known to exploit search engines like Google by displaying false results and indexing every query ran on their site in order to dominate keyword searches.

Quite simply put, pirate sites were pushing out legitimate sites. And when it comes to Google results page two is no better than page 1,000. To quote Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.”

However with Google’s new foray into the business of selling content via its Google Play and Google TV platforms, it became clear that if Google wanted to work out partnerships with Hollywood and TV producers, it was going to have to clean up its act—and its results. Armed with reams of data culled from the Transparency Report Google is now in a great position to identify repeat infringers and piracy havens and downrank them accordingly.

This new policy by Google should be all the incentive copyright holders need to become more active in the fight to protect their content. Make no mistake about it, pirate sites are scared to death they will be downranked by Google. They are already whipping their mouthpieces like the Electronic Frontier Foundation into a frenzy. The EFF of course isn’t concerned with any solutions to rampant copyright infringement; instead they want to focus on “false positives” that might ensnare legitimate sites.

This would be a real worry if simply a handful of infringements were enough to warrant a downrank. I’m assuming the actual quote from Google stating only sites with “high numbers of removal notices” were going to be penalized was simply overlooked by the EFF, unless you believe The Pirate Bay is an innocent website with 

214,000-plus “false positives” against it, and someone had a vendetta against TorrentHound resulting in 468,000 fake notices.

The EFF logic applied in the real world would mean any scenario they can imagine would result in an innocent person being accused of murder must then result in the removal of any laws against murder. Brilliant.

It’s hard to say this early on how Google will implement the Pirate Penalty. Clearly some sites are going to net much higher numbers of infringements.  A torrent site is going to have significantly higher infringement numbers than a tube site, so I think it’s safe to assume Google isn’t going to just penalize sites crossing a certain threshold of infringements.

It’s probably more likely that when two sites are competing for the same keyword, infringements will be another of Google’s signals on who to give the advantage to. Ideally, the days of content producers having to compete with Filestube and Pirate Bay for the top spots in Google will be over.

Google has stated the process will be monitored and adjusted along the way, so until we see how it plays out, it’s too early to celebrate or complain.  Regardless, now is the time for apathetic copyright holders to step up and protect their content and realize that for virtually every piracy site, Google is their top source of traffic, excluding type-in traffic.

An active and engaged army of copyright holders reporting infringements not only to the piracy sites themselves but also to Google can not only make getting content for free more difficult for internet surfers, but have the bonus effect of helping your own SEO in the process.

As Takedown Piracy passes 10 million reported infringements, I’m proud to say we’ve been reporting tube sites to Google for over a year now and as a result we are far and away the biggest reporter for nearly every pirate tube site you can think of. We’re doing our part to help the adult industry and content producers compete with content thieves. If you’ve ever needed more incentive to get off the sidelines, this is it.

For years content producers have bemoaned piracy sites for the staggering volume of infringements contained within and the seemingly unabashed love given to these sites by Google. However, with a well-implemented Pirate Penalty, years of content thievery and massive pirate libraries could become an albatross dragging the tube sites down to the dark, seldom-seen depths of internet black holes … Or page two of Google. I’ll settle for page two.