Google has announced a change to its search algorithms which now will take into account the number of copyright infringement notifications received for any given site. Google specifically stated that this may lower the search rankings of sites with high numbers of “takedown” notices.
“Takedown” notices are those filed by owners of copyrighted material which request the deletion of unauthorized copies of their work. According to Google, the intent of this change is to “help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily . . . .”
Of course, a takedown notice is not, in itself, proof of infringement. Indeed, Google said it would not remove pages from copyright-infringing Web sites from its search engine unless it received a valid copyright removal notice from the rights’ owner. “Only copyright holders know if something is authorized, and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed,” says Google. Those who say they have been wrongfully accused of copyright infringement may file counter-notices, and depending on whether the claimant has sought court intervention, Google may reinstate the content. It is unclear, however, how the site’s ranking would be affected in the meantime.
Given the importance of Google search rankings (and other search engines may follow Google’s lead), it is more important than ever to exercise care in ensuring that content posted on your site does not inadvertently violate the copyright privileges of its owner.