Google’s new anti-piracy rankings are rolling out this week and it’s fair to say that the pirates are not exactly quaking in their boots, with The Pirate Bay claiming the move will actually increase its direct traffic, according to Torrent Freak.

“That Google is putting our links lower is in a way a good thing for us,” the site writes on its blog, pointing out that a very low amount of its traffic comes from search engines anyway. “We’ll get more direct traffic when people don’t get the expected search result when using Google since they will go directly to TPB.” In other words, by downgrading links to pirate sites Google (and the music and film industries who back the move) risks creating hardcore pirates out of casual consumers (which, as an argument, requires a serious leap of faith to fully grasp).

The post, however, illustrates the tricky path that the content industries must navigate in their dealings with piracy. Asking Google to downgrade the search rankings of pirate sites is a move evidently aimed at casual consumers, rather than serial pirates. And, for the large part, it is likely to work, with most members of the general public likely to visit the legal sites that will pop up first in their Google rankings (with research showing again and again that users are unlikely to look beyond a second or even third page of Google results).

However, this must be weighed up against the risk that some casual users could do as The Pirate Bay suggests and go directly to the pirate sites, where they will almost certainly discover extra content to download. If – as seems likely – this only happens to a minuscule number of casual users then it could be seen as a price worth paying. But if the rate of conversion is higher than expected then the change in Google rankings could prove a spectacular own goal.

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  1. This will make little difference. Yes people may click on more legal sites to hear the music, but there’s a major stumbling block here. Record labels still insist on delaying releases to create a build up and get number 1 on release week. So although you’re hearing a track on the radio it can be 1-2 months (here in the UK anyway) before you’re then able to own it. We’re in a digital age where people are used to and expect to get things immediately, and those customers looking for a legal option give up waiting and will download illegally. Just because it might not come up in a google search isn’t going to stop people. And what happens if someone just adds the word ‘torrent’ to the google search, will the legal sites still appear above torrent sites. It’s a nice move by google, but I still think the blame lies with the labels archaic responses to moving with the times.

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