Google hiding 'pirate' sites to make friends in Hollywood

A Google logo is seen through windows of Moscone Center in San Francisco during Google's annual developer conference. As the search giant branches into Hollywood, it takes a tougher stance on copyright issues.

For many years, Google has been THE place to find something online. Occasionally, it's also a place to NOT find something.

Like websites that transmit non-copyrighted material. Bootleg music and movies. Call them file-sharing sites or call them pirate sites, I won't judge.

Google says if it gets enough complaints, it will slide those sites lower in search results, make them harder to discover.

Danny Sullivan edits Search Engine Land and says, "It's possible that you can do searches right now for popular videos or for songs and sometimes you'll encounter links that will take you over to places that are sharing files online, or purporting to share the files online, sometimes they don't even have them. So the idea is that you'd be less likely to find some of these places that may have the material that's unauthorized and more likely to find legitimate stuff."

Google needs to score points with the entertainment industry. It wants to sell more music and movies through its Google Play store. It wants cable channels to play along with Google TV and with Google Fiber, the experimental high speed internet cable service it's testing in Kansas City.

So, Sullivan says, it can't take its traditional hands-off approach to copyright issues, a stance that has long annoyed copyright holders. "Google's response has been hey, don't blame us, the material is out on the web. We've got really nothing to do with it. but, as Google has been trying to make deals with some of these same entertainment companies, this has been a sticking point for them. And so it seems that the point has finally arrived that Google feels like it's worth making some kind of an effort to deal with this concern that the entertainment industry has, which will in turn perhaps let Google make more the content deals it's seeking."

OK, so the entertainment industry will be happy, some websites will be annoyed. What does it mean for you and me and our Googling around? Eric Goldman is with Santa Clara University School of Law and says, "One possibility is that your search results will look identical as they always have. Another possibility however is that this algorithm ranking change will make a noticeable difference for some types of people who are searching for content that may or may not be legitimate. And, it's possible that the ranking algorithm change will affect even people who are looking for legitimate content because Google has miscalibrated the signals, it's over-responding to the feedback it's getting."

So you don't know for sure what you'll find on Google. Good luck!

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Yahoo Answers is a site where you can ask strangers for help or advice.

A student recently posted, asking for a summary of the book "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To." The student had been assigned the book as summer reading and listed excuses for not reading it.  The library was under construction, summer's such a busy time, on and on.

That drew a response from, of all people, DC Pierson, the book's author.

DC Pierson: The point is that they have the book, you know what I mean? They actually, they finally got it in their possession, and now that they've gone through this whole hero's journey of trying to get it, they just don't want to read it anyway.

Moe: you weren't entirely unsympathetic, you had some empathy for this person, right?

Pierson: I mean, there are a lot of books that I was assigned that I didn't read because I was like I'm too busy doing plays. I can't be reading books.

Moe: Right. So glad Nathanial Hawthorne wasn't on Yahoo answers, and that there wasn't a Yahoo answers when I was a kid.

Pierson: Yeah, back in Hawthorne's day, it took a lot longer and a lot of ponies had to die.

Moe: You had to get your quill, get your parchment.

Pierson: There would be cut to a ship going across the sea in pounding waves.

Moe: And then you might get dropsy.

Pierson: That's a given.

DC Pierson is author of "The Boy Who Couldn't Sleep And Never Had To." He watches the internet like a hawk.

About the author

John Moe is the host of Marketplace Tech Report, where he provides an insightful overview of the latest tech news.

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