Google has overhauled its search tool in an effort to curb piracy.
The company, in an effort to appease copyright holders, will start taking out websites with pirated content from its search results.
The company has long been at odds with the entertainment industry for enabling people to easily find websites with pirated material. Now, with Google entering into deals with Hollywood companies (it collaborated with Paramount Pictures for an interactive website for the upcoming movie "Interstellar"), it is playing nice with copyright holders, revamping its 'How Google Fights Piracy' report as it outlines [pdf] its strategy for combating piracy.
In its report, Google revealed improvements in search "demotions" for illegal websites and changes to its ad formats. The company has been testing ads on search results that are meant to point people towards legitimate media outlets. Searches results for movies, books and music usually comes with a panel on the right-hand side that contains facts and images. Google has embedded new features within the panels that make it easy for people to find legitimate sources of the material online. For example, a search query for "U2" may produce a "Listen Now" button from Beats Music or Spotify.
Google has also changed search results for queries that often lead to piracy-related activities. Searches for words such as "download," "watch" and "free" now produce links to services such as Netflix, Amazon and Google Play.
In spite of the changes, Google insists that search engines are not the most popular vessel for piracy websites. "Google Search is not how music, movie and TV fans intent on pirating media find pirate sites. All traffic from major search engines (Yahoo, Bing and Google) accounts for less than 16% of traffic to sites like the Pirate Bay. In fact, several notorious sites have said publicly that they don't need search engines, as users find them through social networks, word of mouth and other mechanisms," the report reads.
"The good news is that the most popular queries relating to movies, music, books, video games, and other copyrighted works return results that do not include links to infringing materials."
Aside from the new ads, Google is also making changes to an existing anti-piracy measure. In August 2012, the company first announced that it will pull down the rankings of websites that inspire DMCA complaints. Now, the company has improved the demotion process.
"We've now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites," Katherine Oyama, Google's senior copyright policy counsel, said in a press release. To make the demotion process more effective, the company also removed terms from autocomplete predictions that usually lead to pirated material.
Google's new ad system is currently being tested in the United States. According to Oyama, the company will continue to invest in the format for expansion to other countries. The DMCA demotions, on the other, will roll out everywhere starting next week.