August 13, 2012

Google Moves Piracy Links To Make Space For Google Music Links

Michael Harper for - Your Universe Online

Google often finds themselves in difficult positions. Built upon the motto “Don´t be evil,” the Mountain View company often finds it hard to sell ads and offer their myriad of free services without crossing some ethical lines. For instance, the search giant announced in January they´d be making some changes in the way their search results were listed, placing Google + entries higher on the list than other, possibly more relevant results. This is, of course, in addition to displaying a handful of Google ads at the beginning of any Google search and some additional Google ads on the right hand side of the results page as well.

In May, Google commissioned a professor of law/blogger to craft a defense for their moves, saying Google has a first amendment right to list whatever results they want, similar to how the New York Times can print whatever they deem fit.

“Search engines select and sort the results in a way that is aimed at giving users what the search engine companies see as the most helpful and useful information,” wrote UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh.

“In this respect, each search engine´s editorial judgment is much like many other familiar editorial judgments.”

This sort of judgement will likely be called into question once more as Google has made even more changes to the way their search results are returned.

Last week, Google announced they´d be changing their search algorithms, moving popular and notorious file sharing sites to the second page of results.

"This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily — whether it's a song previewed on NPR's music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed from Spotify," wrote Google´s vice president for engineering, Amit Singhai.

Of course, Google has their own “Legitimate, quality source of content,” called Google Music.

Now, many are beginning to wonder if last week´s announcement will place Google Music results at the top of the page, similar to how Google + results are prominently featured in any search.

Google Music is seen as the search companies answer to Apple´s iTunes. Both companies have been going out of their way to become completely independent of one another in recent months.

Google Music was announced in November, but a lack of licensing agreements have kept the service inside of the United States.

According to Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), this change could be a key factor in expanding the service outside the U.S. borders. Speaking to the Guardian, Taylor said, “This has the potential to be really significant, but it all depends how it is reflected in the results people see.”

"It makes us feel that Google is a little bit more on our side. It's helpful background music to these [Google Music] discussions, certainly."

Music and other entertainment industries have been asking Google for years to stop supporting file sharing services such as Megaupload and The Pirate Bay by displaying their pages at the top of their results. In fact, Google´s displaying these piracy sites in search results has been a major point of contention in their licensing talks with these record labels.

Now that they´ll be moving these results to later pages, Google may now be able to score the licenses they´ve been after and expand past the American shoreline.

"This is a great political step forward for Google, said Mark Mulligan, a music industry analyst, speaking to the Guardian.

"There is no doubt that what Google is doing is strategically linked to what they want to do with their own music service."