Google’s Pirate 2.0 Update: Who Really Wins?

By Tinuiti Team

On August 10th 2012, Google first announced that they would start taking into account a new signal in their ranking algorithm in order to help searchers easily find legitimate, high quality content.  This ranking signal was the “number of valid copyright removal notices” (DMCA Takedown Notices), and thus Pirate 1.0 was born.  Over two years after this announcement Google launched an update on October 21st 2014 to further combat software and digital media piracy, this recent update was deemed the Pirate 2.0 update.  Immediately following each update, huge spikes in copyright removal requests were received from Google in an attempt to penalize sites for copyright infringement.

Google requests to remove content trends
Source: Google’s Request to Remove Content Transparency Report

How Google is Fighting Piracy:

Google took measures to stem internet piracy in four extremely tactical ways. The end goal is to increase the visibility of legitimate alternatives and push the visibility of illegitimate resources to near non-existence.  Here is how Google is working to help fight internet piracy.

  1. Removing infringing pages from search results
  2. Utilizing valid removal notices as a ranking signal and decreasing visibility for infringing sites
  3. Removing terms associated with piracy from Google’s Autocomplete suggestions
  4. Removing terms associated with piracy from Google’s Related Search results

Who the Pirate 2.0 Update Hurts:

After the Pirate 2.0 update, several articles came out quantifying site traffic and the change in site visits by comparing pre and post update figures.  If this is the type of information you are interested in I suggest reading up on Searchmetric’s Google Pirate Update Analysis and Loser List blog post.  All the articles I found focused on which sites lost the most traffic and how much the pirating industry has been hit by the Pirate 2.0 update.  This article will instead be about the industries that stand to gain the most from a crackdown on internet piracy.

Who the Pirate 2.0 Update Helps:

Streaming Sites!!!

Legitimate streaming options stand to gain a huge following from this update.  I predict site visitation and ad sales to reach all-time highs due to the Pirate 2.0 update for sites like Hulu and Crackle.  These sites provide a warehouse of TV and Movie options at your fingertips for the low, low cost of watching a few short commercials.  Also in this digital age we have less and less CD sales and more and more digital streams.  Sites like Pandora, Spotify and Arena allow you to stream millions of songs (In 2013 Spotify said its catalog already included more than 20 million songs!).  Think about the value of an ad on Hulu when visitation grows exponentially, think about how much more exposure and reach a commercial will have…this update can be one of the largest game changers for legitimate streaming sites ever.

Subscription Services (aka I want my show and I want it now…but I hate commercials and don’t mind paying to never see them again)

Subscription services like Netflix and Amazon Prime stand to gain and retain huge new audiences.  For the cost of a few dollars a month you will have access to vast libraries of TV shows and movies.  The business model is genius, you pay for a monthly or yearly subscription and get addicted to marathoning entire seasons of all your favorite shows without commercials!  Pair that with exclusive content and frequent updates to video libraries and these subscription services stand to gain a huge new audience (and keep them for a long time).

Streaming Devices

Personally I use my Roku every day and I’ve heard great arguments for Chromecast and Apple TV.  Gaming devices like the PS4 and Xbox360 can also fall into the streaming device category but are really multitaskers because they do that as an added feature on top of playing games.  Similarly Smart TVs also fall into the streaming device category but should also be considered a multitasker as it doesn’t just stream TV.  Long story short is that devices that aggregate streaming sites and subscription services stand to gain a whole world of new customers.  Once you invest the onetime fee for these products you don’t have to buy another one for a very long time.

Cable and Premium TV providers (They always hoped you would come crawling back)

When you can no longer torrent the newest episodes of your favorite show and you can’t wait for other services to update, you do the only thing you can…pay the cable bill and watch/DVR your favorite shows.  With DVR technology where it’s at, you can marathon shows and skip the commercials.  Cable services have come a long way and if you don’t mind paying for it every month they are a great choice to stay current on all your favorite shows.

The Corporate Entertainment Industry

Let’s not forget the main advocates for these updates, the corporate entertainment industry has lost countless dollars due to copyright infringement.  When I say the “corporate entertainment industry” I am really referring to the big players (the 6 major movie studies and 3 major record labels which control almost all the music & movies outside of independent studios & labels).  With less options to pirate free music and movies the corporate entertainment industry stands to gain the most from the Pirate 2.0 update.

Independent Labels and Studios

Many artists have chosen the option of working outside of the corporate entertainment industry and become indie.  In the music world, independent labels succeed by bringing music to consumers that the major record labels don’t release.  In the movie world, independent films are produced mostly or completely outside the major film studio system (although subsidiaries of major film studios can still be involved).  With the ever changing technological and digital landscape, success is more possible than ever when it comes to independent labels and studios.  With high end digital film equipment and post production costs dropping due to technological advances, making a high quality movie is obtainable without funding from major movie studios backing you.  And with the ever changing digital landscape we are in today, sites that allow you to pay artists directly like Arena and Bandcamp are on the rise and can gain a much larger following.

Pirate 2.0 Winners vs. Losers:

With Google’s Pirate 2.0 update and continued efforts to stem internet piracy, huge changes are in store for all the industries I listed above and more.  Ever since the late 90’s file sharing has been around and pirating has been an issue for the entertainment industry.  However unlike the late 90’s and early 2000’s there are many more options for artists to gain exposure and be profitable.  Once it was fairly black and white, you were paying corporations for creative products which would in turn pay out a portion of their profits to artists.  Now there are many shades of grey and vast options for digesting and purchasing all types of media (with more being created every year).  So on one hand consumers are losing access to huge databases of free media and on the other is the fact that in this digital world the entertainment industry is a much more complex ecosystem then it used to be.  How do you feel about internet piracy and copyright infringement?   As an SEO I’ve personally worked with some of the streaming sites I’ve mentioned in this article to optimize their sites, manage content, improve organic rankings and grow their audience substantially.  If you are in one of the industries I listed above it’s important to know that the digital landscape can be changing for you drastically and market share is going to play an even larger role in your lifetime profitability than ever.  Please visit our SEO services section to see how we can help you improve your organic visibility today!

Here are some resource links that were very helpful for our research and can help you gain a better understanding of the recent update by Google:

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