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Google to punish piracy sites in search rankings

A new algorithm will push guilty sites further down the search rankings.

Bad news for pirates sailing the seven seas of the web: from next week, Google will punish sites that host pirated music, movies and TV shows.

The search giant will downrank sites hit by valid copyright claims, it announced in a blog post. Its new algorithm will take into account the number of valid copyright notices a site has received and shunt the worst offenders down the rankings. Whether this is a genuine attempt to curb the pirates, or just to appease the studios threatening to sue Google, depends on your point of view.

Google says the new algorithm will help promote legal sources of fun like Spotify.

The MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) issued a statement following the Google announcement. Michael O'Leary, the MPAA's senior executive vice president for global policy and external affairs, said in the statement: "We are optimistic that Google's actions will help steer consumers to the myriad legitimate ways for them to access movies and TV shows online, and away from the rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other outlaw enterprises that steal the hard work of creators from across the globe.

"We will be watching this development closely -- the devil is always in the details -- and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favour legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves."

Google is keen to point out that it's not policing the web itself, and won't remove any web pages unless it receives a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner. "Only copyright holders know if something is authorised," it said, "and only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed; Google cannot determine whether a particular webpage does or does not violate copyright law."

So is it a genuine attempt to capsize the pirates? Or is Google just covering its own back? Let me know what you reckon in the comments or on Facebook.