Google tweaks search engine to combat piracy

Google is updating its search engine technology to make websites that violate copyright law appear lower in search results.

The Internet giant announced Friday that the update will roll out next week and target websites that have been flagged multiple times for copyright infringement.

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The move is the latest step by Google to combat online piracy. Since 2012, Google has been lowering the search rankings for such sites, but some have complained that the actions have not been effective.

Google is also refining its autocomplete function, which helps users find the right search terms, to make it harder to locate sites known for hosting pirated content.

"We've begun demoting autocomplete predictions that return results with many" complaints, Google wrote in its updated report, "How Google Fights Piracy."

The search engine will also begin promoting "legitimate" content providers when people search for music or movies — including sites like Amazon, Google Play and Netflix. 

Google said the best way to combat piracy is by providing better and more convenient access to legitimate content. However, it will continue to process millions of requests to remove search results that link to pirated content, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. 

Last year, it received 224 million takedown requests and removed 222 million, according to Google's own statistics. It said the average request was processed in six hours. 

"Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply," Google said in the report. "As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services.

“The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can," said Google.

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAvalanche of Democratic senators say Franken should resign America isn't ready to let Sessions off his leash Your tax dollars fund Afghan child rape MORE (D-Vt.) welcomed Google's announcement, saying he met with the company on multiple occasions to do more about "rogue websites" that traffic in content violating copyright law.

"These websites, which have long been too easy to find, steal from creators, mislead consumers, and undermine the many lawful, innovative services that are flourishing online," he said in a statement. "All businesses in the Internet ecosystem have an important role to play in minimizing illegal activity."

—Updated 3:00 p.m.