To Share or Not to Share?

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    Copyright on the internet has always been a contentious issue. With social media urging us to ‘share’ as much content as possible to increase the popularity of our profiles and sites, where does Google’s new ranking algorithm fit in? On Friday 10th August, they announced that the number and validity of copyright infringement notices submitted through Google’s form would affect the rankings of a page or site.

    Again, Google has allowed their own real estate to skate by, citing that requests for YouTube posts are not included, neither are requests sent to Google Search for content on any other Google product.

    “Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site. Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results” – Amit Singal

    While Google rightly points out that they are not playing courtroom with these requests, they also make sure it’s clear that they won’t remove a page from results completely unless the removal notice is from the copyright owner themselves. You can also respond to the claims using the ‘counter notice’ tools available from the DMCA to get your content reinstated.

    While this is a huge step for copyright online, it will surely be abused along with other SEO, and reverse SEO tactics. In the short term, there is nothing to stop competitors from reporting your content in an effort to reduce your rankings. While this might not hold much water, if part of the algorithm is the ‘number’ of claims, eventually you must start to lose rankings, if only temporarily. Another question is what happens if you are linking to a site that has been penalised? Will that negative juice then have the follow on effect that PR has?

    One take-down has already happened due to some vigilante users forcing a book borrowing website offline. Some Amazon ebooks have a ‘lending license’, which means that a legitimately paid for book, can be lent to a friend’s account for a period of 14 days. The site Lendlink was merely a request system for people online to arrange book loans and reviews, like an online library. A veritable mob thought mistakenly that the site was ‘giving away’ published works for free, and they campaigned for it to be taken down.

    Undoubtedly, there will be room for more misuse, and perhaps hysteria concerning the copying and sharing of content, whether done for evil or legitimately. Hopefully there will be more information on this new ranking factor as the effects start to be seen.

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