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  1. Popcorn is without a doubt the hallmark snack of the movie industry. Increasingly, however, top movie industry executives cringe when they hear the word as it's linked to the "Popcorn Time" app. Making matter worse, the popular pirate tool now tops the snack in Google's search results. Dubbed the “Netflix for Pirates,†the Popcorn Time app quickly gathered a user base of millions of people over the past year. The application has some of the major media giants worried, including Netflix which sees the pirate app as a serious competitor to its business. Increasing this threat, Popcorn Time has now taken the top spot in Google search results, a position that used to be held by the popular movie snack “popcorn“. For years, the Popcorn Wikipedia entry has been listed as the number one result but it has now been replaced by the website. Results may vary based on location, but TF has confirmed that the pirate app has seized the top spot in the US, UK and the Netherlands. The screenshot below shows Google’s results from California. Popcorn Time’s domination is not shared on Bing, where the app is nowhere near the top results. In addition to the top listing, Google’s Autocomplete feature also favors Popcorn Time over the snack. Just entering the three letters “pop†is enough for the suggestion to appear. It’s unclear why Google favors Popcorn Time over Popcorn, as the latter is still more sought after in the search engine. Perhaps the recent rise of the application and the many online discussions have something to do with it. Whatever the case, Hollywood is not going to be pleased with how Google algorithms have pushed Popcorn Time into the limelight. The MPAA has been complaining bitterly about pirate sites outranking legitimate content, and they’ll see this recent example as yet more ammunition to keep pushing. So get the popcorn ready!
  2. Disney has just obtained a patent for a search engine that ranks sites based on various "authenticity" factors. One of the goals of the technology is to filter pirated material from search results while boosting the profile of copyright and trademark holders' websites. Disney and other rightsholders are not happy with today’s search engines after repeatedly asking Google and Co. to promote legal content and remove pirate sites from search results. While Google implemented several changes to satisfy these requests, Disney has also taken matters into its own hands. A new patent awarded to Disney Enterprises this week describes a search engine through which pirated content is hard to find. Titled “Online content ranking system based on authenticity metric values for web elements,†one of the patent’s main goals is to prevent pirated movies and other illicit content from ranking well in the search results. According to Disney their patent makes it possible to “enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites.†Disney believes that current search engines are using the wrong approach as they rely on a website’s “popularity.†This allows site owners to game the system in order to rank higher. “For example, a manipulated page for unauthorized sales of drugs, movies, etc. might be able to obtain a high popularity rating, but what the typical user will want to see is a more authentic page,†they explain. While this is a rather simplified description of the complex algorithms most search engines use, Disney believes it can do a better job. In their patent they describe a system that re-ranks search results based on an “authenticity indexâ€. This works twofold, by promoting sites that are more “authoritative†and filtering out undesirable content. “In particular, embodiments enable more authoritative search results … to be ranked higher and be more visible to a user. Embodiments furthermore enable the filtering of undesirable search results, such as results referencing piracy websites, child pornography websites, and/or the like,†Disney writes. While Disney’s idea of a search engine may sound appealing to some, deciding what counts as “authoritative†is still rather subjective. Google, for example, uses PageRank which is in part based on the number of quality links to websites. Disney, however, suggests giving “official†sites priority when certain terms relate to a property of a company. These “authority†weights can include trademarks, copyrighted material, and domain name information. This doesn’t only affect pirated content, Disney explains, it also means that a Wikipedia entry or IMDb listing for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs†will rank lower than the official Disney page of the film. “The web page may be associated with an authenticity weight that is greater than the authenticity weight associated with the encyclopedia web page because is the official domain for The Walt Disney Company. As such, with respect to the Snow White and the Seven Dwarfsâ„¢ film, the web page may be considered more authoritative (and thus more authentic) than the encyclopedia web page,†Disney writes. In other words, official sites should be the top result for “brand†related searches, even if people are looking for background info or more balanced (re)views. For pirate sites there’s no place at all in the top results, even though Disney’s definition of a pirate site may also be rather subjective. It’s unclear whether Disney has any plans to implement the patent in the wild. The company currently has a search engine but this only includes links to its own properties. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  3. Google adds games to its Knowledge Graph. If you Google search a video game, Google's Knowledge Graph will now offer more details related to that game, like its release date, developer, publisher, and more. If you search for Civilization: Beyond Earth, for example, you'll see a panel on the right with screenshots from the game, its Metacritic score, a short description via Wikipedia, the series it belongs to, and what platforms it's available for. The search works for both specific game titles and game series. First introduced in 2012, Google's Knowledge Graph enhances searches by offering these summaries of movies, books, places, people, food, and more. Video games are just the latest addition. “We always want to help people find the best answers to their questions – fast,†a Google spokesperson told VentureBeat. “With today’s update, you can ask questions about video games, and (while there will be ones we don’t cover) you’ll get answers for console and PC games as well as the most popular mobile apps.†Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  4. Google announced today that it will roll out a new search update to "visibly" lower the search rankings of the most notorious pirate sites. The announcement is part of Google's improved anti-piracy efforts which are detailed in a new report. Over the past few years the entertainment industries have repeatedly asked Google to step up its game when it comes to anti-piracy efforts. These remarks haven’t fallen on deaf ears and Google has slowly implemented various new anti-piracy measures in response. Today Google released an updated version of its “How Google Fights Piracy†report. The company provides an overview of all the efforts it makes to combat piracy, but also stresses that copyright holders themselves have a responsibility to make content available. One of the most prominent changes is a renewed effort to make “pirate†sites less visible in search results. Google has had a downranking system in place since 2012, but this lacked effectiveness according to the RIAA, MPAA and other copyright industry groups. The improved version, which will roll out next week, aims to address this critique. “We’ve now refined the signal in ways we expect to visibly affect the rankings of some of the most notorious sites. This update will roll out globally starting next week,†says Katherine Oyama, Google’s Copyright Policy Counsel. The report notes that the new downranking system will still be based on the number of valid DMCA requests a site receives, among other factors. The pages of flagged sites remain indexed, but are less likely to be the top results. “Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in search results. This ranking change helps users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,†the report reads. Looking at the list of sites for which Google received the most DMCA takedown request, we see that 4shared, Filestube and Dilandau can expect to lose some search engine traffic. The report further highlights several other tweaks and improvements to Google’s anti-piracy efforts. For example, in addition to banning piracy relatedAutoComplete words, Google now also downranks suggestions that return results with many “pirate†sites. Finally, the report also confirms our previous reporting which showed that Google uses ads to promote legal movie services when people search for piracy related keywords such as torrent, DVDrip and Putlocker. This initiative aims to increase the visibility of legitimate sites. A full overview of Google’s anti-piracy efforts is available here. Add Rep and Leave a feedback
  5. After making headlines all over the Internet Google has decided to take down the sitelinks search box for The Pirate Bay. Perhaps worried that it may increase complaints from copyright holders, similar search boxes for other torrent sites have also been removed. This is how a search for The Pirate Bay looked like until yesterday, complete with a search box and prominent sitelinks. Today, the only things left are a few rather small sitelinks under the site description, as shown below.
  6. Google has been asked to remove half a billion copyright-infringing URLs since it started counting three years ago. The listing of pirate sites in Google's search results has turned into a heated conflict, which the search engine and copyright holders have yet to resolve. In the hope of steering prospective customers away from pirate sites, copyright holders are overloading Google with DMCA takedown notices. These requests have increased dramatically over the years. In 2008, the search engine received only a few dozen takedown notices during the entire year, but today it processes a million per day on average. Adding up the numbers reported in Google’s Transparency Report, we found that since the release of the report three years ago Google has been asked to remove over 500 million links to allegedly infringing webpages. The number of notices continues to increase at a rapid pace as nearly half of the requests, 240 million, were submitted during the first months of 2014. The graph below illustrates this sharp rise in takedown notices. Most of the reported webpages have indeed been removed and no longer appear in Google’s search results. As an example, more than two million Pirate Bay pageshave quietly been wiped from Google. TorrentFreak asked Google for a comment on the most recent milestone but the company has chosen not to respond on the record. Despite the frequent use of the takedown process many copyright holders aren’t happy with the way things are going. While Google does its best to comply with its obligations under current law, some industry insiders claim that the search giant can and should do more to tackle the piracy problem. The UK music industry group BPI, which is responsible for roughly 20% of all submitted URLs, points out that Google should do more to lower the visibility of unauthorized content in its search results. Despite promises to do so, the music group still sees very little improvement on this front “Despite its clear knowledge as to which sites are engines of piracy, Google continues to help build their illegal businesses, by giving them a prominent ranking in search results,†BPI told us last week. “Google can simply fix this problem by amending its algorithm. We hope they will respond positively to the invitation from Government to negotiate voluntary measures to do so.†The BPI and other copyright holders are pushing for some sort of agreement to implement more far-reaching anti-piracy measures. However, thus far Google maintains that it’s already doing its best to address the concerns of copyright holders. Last year the company released a report detailing the various anti-piracy measures it uses. However, the company also stressed that copyright holders can do more to prevent piracy themselves. Without legal options it’s hard to beat unauthorized copying, is the argument Google often repeats. “Piracy often arises when consumer demand goes unmet by legitimate supply. As services ranging from Netflix to Spotify to iTunes have demonstrated, the best way to combat piracy is with better and more convenient legitimate services,†the company previously explained. “The right combination of price, convenience, and inventory will do far more to reduce piracy than enforcement can.†While this standoff continues, copyright holders are expected to increase the volume of requests. At the current pace Google may have processed a billion URLs by the end of next year.
  7. New research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that search engine results directly influence people's decision to pirate movies, or buy them legally. According to the researchers, their findings show how search engines may play a vital role in the fight against online piracy. In recent years Hollywood and the music industry have taken a rather aggressive approach against Google. The entertainment industry companies believe that the search engine isn’t doing enough to limit piracy, and have demanded more stringent measures. One of the suggestions often made is to remove or demote pirate sites in search results. A lower ranking would lead fewer people to pirate sources and promoting legal sources will have a similar effect. Google previously said it would lower the ranking of sites based on DMCA complaints, but thus far these changes have had a limited effect. A few weeks ago the company also began promoting legal options but this effort is in the testing phase for now. The question that remains is whether these changes would indeed decrease piracy. According to new research from Carnegie Mellon University, they can. In a paper titled “Do Search Engines Influence Media Piracy?†the researchers ran two experiments where they let participants use a custom search engine to find a movie they wanted to watch. The respondents could pick from a list of 50 titles and received a $20 prepaid virtual Visa card as compensation. All search results were pulled from a popular search engine. In the control category the results were not manipulated, but in the “legal†and “infringing†conditions the first page only listed “legal†(e.g Amazon) and neutral (e.g IMDb) sites or “infringing†(e.g. Pirate Bay) and neutral sites respectively. While it’s quite a simple manipulation, and even though users could still find legal and pirated content in all conditions, the results are rather strong. Of all participants who saw the standard results, 80% chose to buy the movie via a legal option. This went up to 94% if the results were mostly legal, and dropped to 57% for the group who saw mostly infringing results on the first page. To Pirate or Not to Pirate TorrentFreak contacted Professor Rahul Telang who says that the findings suggest that Google and other search engines have a direct effect on people’s behavior, including the decision to pirate a movie. “Prominence of legal versus infringing links in the search results seem to play a vital role in users decision to consume legal versus pirated content. In particular, demoting infringing links leads to lower rate of consumption of pirated movie content in our sample,†he notes. In a second study the researchers carried out a slightly modified version of the experiment with college students, a group that tends to pirate more frequently. The second experiment also added two new conditions where only the first three results were altered, to see if “mild†manipulations would also have an effect. The findings show that college students indeed pirate more as only 62% went for the legal option in the control condition. This percentage went up gradually to 76% with a “mild legal†manipulation, and to 92% in the legal condition. For the infringing manipulations the percentages dropped to 48% and 39% respectively. To Pirate or Not to Pirate, take two According to Professor Telang their findings suggest that even small changes can have a significant impact and that altering search algorithms can be instrumental in the fight against online piracy. “The results suggest that the search engines may play an important role in fight against intellectual property theft,†Telang says. It has to be noted that Professor Telang and his colleagues received a generous donation from the MPAA for their research program. However, the researchers suggest that their work is carried out independently. As a word of caution the researchers point out that meddling with search results in the real world may be much more challenging. False positives could lead to significant social costs and should be avoided, for example. This and other caveats aside, the MPAA and RIAA will welcome the study as a new piece of research they can wave at Google and lawmakers. Whether that will help them to get what they want has yet to be seen though.
  8. The popular MP3 search engine MP3Juices has lost its domain name following a request from the UK's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit. After yet another suspension, operators of other "pirate" sites are prepping for the worst and looking for new safe havens. Over the past few months City of London Police have been working together with copyright holders to topple sites that provide or link to pirated content. The police started by sending warning letters to site owners, asking them to go legit or shut down. Late last year this was followed by a campaign targeted at domain registrars, asking them to suspend the domain names of several “illegal†sites. Most registrars have denied these suspension requests because they lack any legal basis, but some are cooperating. Yesterday another site fell victim to the police’s campaign after had its domain name suspended. The MP3 search engine was relatively popular with well over a million visitors per month. For now, these visitors will have to find an alternative as the site currently displays a prominent police banner. “You have tried to access a website that is under criminal investigation by the UK: Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) This site is being investigated for online copyright infringement,†the banner reads. The domain was suspended by domain name registrar, who previously suspended the domains of several other sites including Interestingly, the latter was allowed to transfer its domain to another registrar after it threatened to take legal steps. TorrentFreak asked PIPCU for a comment on the latest domain suspension but we have yet to hear back. Increasingly, owners of alleged pirate sites are looking for safe registrars that won’t give in to complaints from authorities overseas. The Canadian registrar EasyDNS appears to be a safer choice, as the company protests PIPCU’s efforts fiercely. PIPCU is not happy with these non-cooperative registrars and a few weeks ago the police sent EasyDNS a threatening letter, suggesting that the company itself could be held liable for aiding and abetting a criminal operation. TorrentFreak spoke with a source who has been following the response of site owners to the recent domain perils, and he suggested that bypassing registrars altogether may become a new trend. Add Rep and Leave a feedback Reputation is the green button in the down right corner on my post
  9. To encourage more websites to adopt the secure HTTPS protocol, Google makes it a factor in its search result rankings. Google wants websites to become more secure and is using its search results ranking as incentive. In a blog posted on Wednesday, Zineb Ait Bahajji and Gary Illyes, Webmaster Trends analysts for the search giant, said that they've been tweaking their search ranking algorithms to incorporate whether sites use secure encrypted connections. So far, the team has seen positive results. A URL that lists HTTPS as part of its address, for example,, is an indication that the site uses Secure Sockets Layers (SSL). SSL is a security protocol that relies on certificates to ensure that any communication between the site and the Web browser is encrypted and therefore less vulnerable to being snooped on by the wrong people. With security always a concern on the Web, a site that uses SSL is considered safer than one without it. That's why sites that require a password, financial data, or other private information should by default be using SSL. As a results of the positive results of Google's test, the team said it's now using HTTPS -- which stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure -- as a ranking signal in its search results, though the effort is just getting started. "For now it's only a very lightweight signal -- affecting fewer than 1 percent of global queries, and carrying less weight than other signals such as high-quality content -- while we give webmasters time to switch to HTTPS," the Google team said. "But over time, we may decide to strengthen it, because we'd like to encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web." For webmasters and developers who want to make the switch to HTTPS, the team included a list of steps in its blog post, such as deciding the type of certificate you need, choosing a 2048-bit key certificate (which offers a strong level of encryption), and checking out Google's Site Move article for details on how to change your website address.
  10. At every available opportunity copyright holders criticize Google for not doing enough to stop online piracy and every step taken by the search engine only results in more demands. Meanwhile, Microsoft's Bing flies largely under the radar, providing a video and TV show search tool that Google would not dare introduce. Google is only too aware of its currently unpopularity with rightsholders. While the search giant provides superb and often vital Internet services, the music and movie industries are desperate for infringing results to disappear from Google’s indexes. Every week the search engine receives millions of DMCA takedown notices requiring it to take case-by-case action, but the company’s reluctance to do something more permanent has made it search-engine-enemy-#1 with copyright holders who never miss an opportunity to lay on the criticism. In the background, however, Microsoft’s Bing flies comparatively under the radar. Sure it processes plenty of takedown notices too, but it receives little of the corporate pressure piled onto Google. This can only be a result of Google’s place in the market, since Mr Don’t Be Evil has done more than its rival to combat piracy. Case in point, Bing’s powerful and somewhat under-used streaming video search engine which offers to find TV shows from the get-go. While Google gets heavily criticized for its AutoComplete feature (which is already partially censored following copyright holder requests), Bing has no problem in first offering TV shows and then completing suggestions of what to watch. Tap in “BRE†and at the top of the list appears BREAKING BAD. We clicked the option – Bing delivered. The first few results are shown below but those are just the tip of the iceberg and more specific show searches hardly ever come up short either. The auto-suggestions at the top of the screen are there in case ideas run out too, helpfully pushing the user towards varies series and specific episodes. As can be seen from the image above, those who are fussy over the quality of the content being presented can filter by resolution too, right up to 1080p. Also, restricting searches to videos over 20 mins rejects many trailers and other samplers in favor of episodes and full length movies. Aside from being a pretty good search engine (it came up with some long-forgotten TV show pilots from the 1970s), Bing also has a rather nice trick up its sleeve. Hover a mouse over any video thumbnail shown in the results and its size will instantly increase to display a proper video preview of the content in question. As far as we’re aware, no other search engine online today does that. Of course, someone at Bing isn’t deliberately programming its engine to present infringing results, those are determined by intelligence gleaned from user search requests. That being said, if Google debuted a new “TV Show†search engine tomorrow and began auto-completing and auto-suggesting infringing TV content, weeks-long industry hysteria would ensue. It’s also worth pointing out that Google also has a decent video search which is almost certainly used by many, many more millions than Bing’s. It’s nowhere near as glossy and definitely not as ‘risky’ in how it presents content, but that won’t stop the search company from continuing to take most of the rightsholder flak due to its colossal userbase and its uncontested position in the market. Make no mistake, Google will remain in the firing line for the foreseeable future, even while other companies get away with much, much more. But their time will come, it’s almost inevitable, an event that could be triggered by Google caving in to increasing rightsholder demands.