It seems like we can’t go more than about 20 minutes before we hear that Google is updating their search algorithm. In a move that will simultaneously please its PR department and its advertising department, Google has announced that they are reworking their search algorithm to show copyrighted material in lower positions on the search rankings. Sounds like a nice piece of news for all the copyright holders out there: they should begin to see more legitimate sales of their products, right? Well, not really. The way to wield Google’s might in a way that actually helps sales of music and movies is to favor retailers like Amazon and others. Instead, Google is actually playing favorites with its own websites, leaving YouTube untouched by this new search method. So if you’re looking for bootleg mp3s of Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe, you can find them on YouTube, right alongside the official VEVO channel, also on YouTube. And it’s all right there in your Google search results.
Why are they doing this? It’s not for the copyright holders who want to see their pirated content removed from the internet. Google is claiming that users want to see “relevant content” and that YouTube is the most relevant content, so therefore YouTube videos must up high in searches. However, what’s really going on here is that Google wants those sweet advertising dollars from everyone that is dumb enough to not install Ad Block Plus on their browser.
Google’s PR department has spun this from a “we are favoring our own content so that we can make more ad money” story into a “we are protecting copyright issues” story. Google gets to play the hero of copyright holders while in reality, it can’t be farther from the case. Users will still get access to whatever content they are looking for and no one will be directly paying for anything that an artist has created. And on the flip side, Google will now be able to rake in more cash from the advertisers who are paying per click. It’s a win for Google, a tie for users, and a loss for content creators.
You might say “but those copyright holders get paid a portion of the advertising dollars!” That might be true, but why does Google get to have the final word of which songs/videos/movies are accessed via which sites? Maybe you’ve written a song and you get a higher royalty by having a user listen to that song on some non-YouTube site, but Google will instead favor its own content to the detriment to you.
The system of making money on the internet is broken and all of their algorithm re-writes are merely an attempt to put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound.