Google Algorithm Change May Discourage Infringement

Posted on 8/23/2012 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Google has made a change in its search algorithm that may discourage web site creators from using unlicensed photos. Such use could result in their entire site appearing lower in search rankings and thus seldom, if ever, seen as a result of a Google search.

However, for this protection to work creators must first locate their image on an offending site and file a “copyright removal notice” with Google. Two years ago Google started receiving and processing copyright renewal notices. In the last 30 days alone they have received notices concerning more than 4.3 million URLs.

The Google search algorithm uses over 200 signals to insure that the best possible results are delivered to its customers. They have recently added a new signal that takes into account the number of “valid copyright removal notices” they have received for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in the Google search results.

To file a request for “Removing Content From Google” go here. First you will be asked what your request relates to which will probably be “Web Search” or “Image Search”. Next click “I have a legal issue that is not mentioned above”; “I have found content that may violate my copyright” and “Yes, I am the copyright owner.”

Then you will be asked to fill out the Removal Form.

Along the way Google points out that, “Our response may include removing or disabling access to material claimed to be the subject of infringing activity and/or terminating subscribers. If we remove or disable access in response to such a notice, we may notify the owner or administrator of the affected site or content so that he or she can make a counter notification. It is also our policy to document all notices of alleged infringement on which we act, including by sending a copy of the notice to one or more third parties or making it available to the public.”

They also repeatedly caution those who file Removal Forms about misrepresentation and remind them to be sure that the use does not qualify as a “Fair Use.” In U.S. law the fair use doctrine is open to a lot of interpretation. In one case involving online content, a company that filed a removal request ended up paying more than $100,000 in costs and attorneys fees after after it was determined that the targeted content was protected by the U.S. fair use doctrine.

Google points out that “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 while this new signal will influence the ranking of some search results, we won’t be removing any pages from search results unless we receive a valid copyright removal notice from the rights owner. And we’ll continue to provide "counter-notice” tools so that those who believe their content has been wrongly removed can get it reinstated. We’ll also continue to be transparent about copyright removals.”

Copyright © 2012 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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