Online pirate
Demoting online piracy sites in Google search results is having an impact on their web traffic from search, says the search giant iStock

Google has released a new report on online piracy showing that downranking online piracy sites in search results is in fact helping to combat the problem as these websites are now losing a large amount of web traffic that comes from searches.

The report, entitled "How Google Fights Piracy" is targeted at copyright holders like the Hollywood entertainment industry, which have repeatedly moaned at the search giant for not doing enough to combat online piracy because internet users are still able to find ways to illegally download and streamed pirated films, TV shows, games, music and software for free.

The prevailing theory is that if the general public is unable to search for online piracy sites, then they cannot visit them, and thus piracy will go down, and Google's latest report shows that this theory does have some credence.

89% of traffic lost, showing entire sites don't need to be removed

Google does not proactively remove hyperlinks to any content unless first notified by copyright holders, but the tech giant says that it is now processing copyright removal notices in less than six hours on average and that since improving its demotion process in 2014, certain blacklisted websites have since lost an average of 89% of their traffic from Google Search when data was analysed in May 2016.

Google also says that it will not remove entire websites from Google as the number of pages on a site that copyright holders complain about are usually only a tiny fraction of the entire site's pages, but it is happy to demote links to pages that explicitly contain or link to content that infringes copyright.

"The combination of efficient processing of takedown notices and the demotion signal gives copyright owners a powerful tool against rogue sites. As new rogue sites emerge, copyright owners can target their removal notices at these new sites, which then provides Google with information we can use to update the ranking signal," Google wrote in the report.

Google also highlights its other efforts to fight online piracy – namely, making legal alternatives to pirated content such as online streaming services prominent on the search engine's results page, as well as making sure that commonly searched terms relating to illegal downloading do not show up in the Autocomplete and Related Search features.

DCMA notice abusers are being banned by Google

The search giant is all for standing up against copyright infringement, but it takes a dim view of its Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown request process being used by organisations with agendas that have nothing to do with copyright issues.

"Google refused to remove or reinstated more than 11 million webpages from our search results," the firm said, highlighting examples of DCMA abuse that included a movie studio trying to get an IMDB page relating to a movie released by its own studio taken offline; a movie studio trying to get a movie review removed from a major national newspaper; a UK driving school trying to get a competitor's homepage removed from Google search; and an anti-piracy firm representing a music label trying to get dozens of webpages delisted from Google simply for containing the word "coffee" in the title.

"We take our commitment to guarding against abuse especially seriously when it comes to our Trusted Copyright Removal Program — we have acted to terminate or suspend partners from the program for repeatedly sending inaccurate notices through our high-volume submission mechanisms," Google said.

"As the volume of removal notices continues to rise, detecting inaccurate or abusive notices becomes even more challenging."