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How Google's Pirate Update can kill off sites stealing your content

Google has revealed that it now has a specific penalty that it applies to sites that receive repeated upheld DCMA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) takedown requests. In other words, it has a special button it can press to kill off sites hosting pirated content.

According to Google, sites hit with the "pirate penalty" can see their traffic from Google drop by an average of 89%. Quite why the reduction isn't 100% is a different question, but it's good to see Google taking real action against websites hosting pirated and copied content. The Pirate update actually dates back to 2014, but this is the first time in a while Google has reported on its efficacy.

In a new document released Feb 2022, Google said “we have developed a ‘demotion signal’ for Google Search that causes sites for which we have received a large number of valid removal notices to appear much lower in search results.”

It's a little vague what constitutes a "large number" but this new penalty is an important reminder not to take it lying down if your copywritten content is being stolen and reused/shared on the web without your permission. (Especially as Google has a habit of ranking copied content above the original)

You can find more information on how to file a DCMA Takedown request with Google here.

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