back to article Google agrees to break pirates' domination over music searches

UK government-hosted talks spanning two Parliaments have culminated in Google and Bing at last agreeing to tweak their search results in response to copyright-holders' concerns, thereby heading off threatened legislation on their conduct. The code means Google, Bing and other search engines will demote illegal sites from the …

  1. wolfetone Silver badge

    It's a slippery slope in to censorshp, isn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I am still aggrieved they made murder, rape and kiddie fiddling illegal. Now they come to take away my illegal downloads.


      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        "I am still aggrieved they made murder, rape and kiddie fiddling illegal. Now they come to take away my illegal downloads."

        You joke, but we're in a country now that allows the Food Standards Agency to ask my ISP what I Googled on February 14th 2017, and for them to then be told that I went on to a pornography website.

        Anything and everything is possible now. It's not the fact they're delisting or changing the positions of these illegal websites which is the problem, is the fact that they could now do this for anything.

        What if a small news website had a post about how the Tory government is failing the NHS? "Slanderous websites are now to be pushed down the search results so more 'reliable' sources are put on the first page instead, as these websites are obvious 'fake news'".

        This could all happen now.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          This is happening now. FTFY

        2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

          "What if a small news website had a post about how the Tory government is failing the NHS?"

          It's taken five years of negotiation for this to happen. I think that will give us time to spot the Tories trying. Or even, possibly, vote them out.

          (And if they really did delist a story---or, more plausibly, delisted a site promoting stories injurious to the music industry---the delistee could still publicise themselves on social media or forward their stories to the mainstream media, as well as creating a story our of the delisting which would certainly be of interest to sites like El Reg.)

          The questions we should be asking are things like "Who decides its a pirate site?" and "Is there an appeals process to handle mistakes?"

        3. streaky

          we're in a country now that allows the Food Standards Agency to ask my ISP what I Googled on February 14th 2017, and for them to then be told that I went on to a pornography website

          If you were really this paranoid you'd know that the average 4 year old can make that return an empty list and you'd get on with it. The people who actually care (most of us work in tech and can see how insipid such a thing would be from a mile away) should just clear ourselves out these databases and let the ones who think we're making funny jokes about it also get on with being in those databases.

          This stuff is a massive waste of political capital that could be used for actual issues like GCHQ's attitude to their remit or attempts to front-door crypto and the like. Joe Average probably takes the nothing to hide view (if they didn't - we do have elections you know) so let them get on with it.

          Regardless I heard the EU was supposed to save us from this. lol.

        4. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          You joke, but we're in a country now that allows the Food Standards Agency to ask my ISP what I Googled on February 14th 2017, and for them to then be told that I went on to a pornography website.

          Is this a joke? We are in a country that allows the FSA to investigate food crimes. If the FSA had cause to suspect you of being involved in food crime, then they need the relevant powers to investigate that, dont they?

      2. Daggerchild Silver badge

        Don't forget the Illegal Cartoons. If a paedo used to be contained in their own room ogling an infinite stream of CGI models, well now they may have to go out and ogle real kids or they'll be arrested. Yay!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        In addition to

        They also gave themselves the power to take away lagit downloads also.

    2. badger31

      Define illegal. Who decides and how?

      It's the most relevant pages at the top of the list. Don't try to cheat this; either be more relevant, or make the illegal download sites less relevant by targeting them and not the search engines.

      1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

        @badger31 - Up vote for the question. Given that Prenda and others have caught salting torrents it begs the question how is Chocolate Factory or Slurp to know which torrent or site is legitimate.

    3. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      It's a slope. How slippery it is, remains to be seen.

    4. Oh Homer
      Big Brother

      OK then, just "demote" Google

      Why use Google to search for content anyway, when the best search results for such things are always going to be directly on the torrent/streaming sites themselves, increasingly not even using a web browser, but using the likes of Kodi plugins?

      As for those determined to punch a hole through the Great British firewall, by doggedly relying on mainstream services that our technophobic politicians misguidedly believe are the sole gateway to everything: unless the government plans on switching off the entire Internet, or at least the UK's access to it, their silly game of whack-a-mole will never be anything more than a circumventable obstacle course.

      For as long as it's still possible to gain access to any VPN/SSH/CGI proxy server located outside the grasping influence of the MAFIAA® and its political lackeys, and there exists any means of searching for content beyond the increasingly sterile offerings from the government's pet monkeys, training those monkeys to censor everything is utterly futile and actually quite funny.

      1. ds6 Bronze badge

        Re: OK then, just "demote" Google

        Haven't used Google or any of it's products (except for the ever-present YouTube, though ueually via youtube-dl) for years now. I primarily use DuckDuckGo, and if I can't find what I need or want alternative search results, I use my searx instance. Really, if it wasn't for the bandwidth cap on my server, I would use it constantly.

        Why use one search engine when you can use them all?

    5. Unbelievable!

      what is more..

      The folks making such rules are nowhere near the 'real' peoples age or ability. they get advised by a sudden donation of "money" group they dont really care about. I'll bet they don't even know how to open cmd prompt (or Terminal), let alone knowledge of torrents or vpns.. and these f***ers are making laws!?

  2. Tony S
    Black Helicopters

    Dangerous precedent

    OK, go ahead and call me tinfoil hat crazy.

    How long before the government "persuade" the big search engine companies to remove links to things that they don't want us to know about.

    It's a very slippery slope; and a dangerous precedent to let them think that they can do this.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      They already do.

      Take the recent super injunction relating to the partner of a famous singer.

      Nothing could be found on google or bing but easily found on baidu.

    2. Halfmad

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      I'm not usually a tinfoil hat fan myself but when I heard about he deal with google and co I was genuinely surprised. This is NOT good and is exactly what google have been accused off repeatedly in the past by government, the EU etc - basically fiddling with the algorithm to suit themselves, well now they'll do it to suit others.

      I'm honestly wondering if now is the time for the likes of Yahoo to hit the reset button and give the search engine game another, proper go - and avoid this sort of "deal".

    3. Jason Bloomberg
      Black Helicopters

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      How long before the government "persuade" the big search engine companies to remove links to things that they don't want us to know about.

      They already can, and do, through laws and by pressure. Pushing the pirates down the listings is hardly the start of 'getting things hidden', the first step on a slippery slope.

      It is bemusing that some people are up in arms for the first time. It proves the case that some people are only ever concerned when it affects them. And by then it may be too late. I believe Martin Niemöller once wrote something about that.

      The government could not only hide every listing Google could ever give, but could put Google and every competitor and ISP out of business with the simple passing of a law. They could kill the internet in the UK completely if they wanted to. That's what governments have the power to do.

      Some believe Trump's focus on "FAKE NEWS!", the "dishonest and lying media", is a precursor to shutting those outlets down. He could. He has the power to do it.

      But it's no good saying they can't or shouldn't or worrying over what slippery slopes there may be. It's up to people to ensure the government gives them what they want, finds a means to make it that way.

      Of course, if the majority (or whatever passes for democracy) wants it that way; well, we're plain buggered unless we change the minds of those who don't see it the same way as we'd like it.

      But it's probably always been that way since we first came out of caves.

    4. Velv
      Big Brother

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      FAKE NEWS - this never happened and if it had happened it would entirely have been for your protection.

      Judicial process is there to ensure fairness, the world increasingly seems to want to remove these safeguards and plough on regardless. Politicians and the people alike. "EXPERTS - what do experts know! We're not going to listen to them, I'm free to make my own decisions"

      Be scared. Be very scared.

    5. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      Google et al won't do anything a Government wants, without (a) Legislation, (b) Enforcement. They pretty much do what they want to do.

      Nothing to see here really.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dangerous precedent

      Far too few companies are in control os all search results including DNS

      Part of it is the browser everybody uses.

      To counter DNS censorship, you can use a host file, but that can be problematic if it changes. What we really need is a browser that will remember the IP address to a site we reach the first time, and will store that information in a browser host file. Then it will always use the entry in the browser host file, but if it's unable to connect, it will then try DNS to find it, and if it succeeds, then you will get a warning that the site address changed.

  3. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "one of musicians' biggest beefs, which is Google's autocomplete providing pirate-friendly terms"

    I thought musicians' biggest beefs were usually about the percentage they were left with after the music industry took its whack.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      0 X $0 and 0 x $100 is the same - 0.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    But if you're looking to buy a song you wouldn't type mp3 into the search, and I expect most people wouldn't search at all they'd just go to their preferred audio purchasing site and search there.

    I mean if you type XYZ mp3 or XYZ torrent you've probably set out with a pretty good idea of what you're about to do.

    Also, I still don't care if big music goes bust. My bag is literally out of fucks to give. How about we look at sorting out the NHS, elderly care and mental health care before pandering to the music industry?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Yeah, what is the problem if the recording industry goes to the wall? What exactly do we need them for?

      Home taping is killing music, they used to say, but of course they really meant home taping was killing the music _industry_. Music existed long before the corporations that profit from it today, and will exist long after they are dead and turned to dust. Frankly, it'll probably be better without them.

      1. CAPS LOCK

        "Home taping is killing music," I wish it would...

        ... modern music is all shit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "Home taping is killing music," I wish it would...

          Yes modern music is shit but fear not, with all the digital processing innovations happening we'll be able to create our own awesome tracks with a bash script soon and we'll have bash scripts to tell us if its crap or not so we dont have to listen to it.

          We'll also be able to use Watson to write the lyrics. Parse them via a feminist / racist / politically correct / extremist filter.

          I hereby name this wholly synthetic genre Bash Step. All hail the new scene.

        2. Geoffrey W

          Re: "Home taping is killing music," I wish it would...

          @caps lock

          "modern music is all shit"

          Modern music has always been shit and no doubt always shall be. You ask anyone saying that what their mums and dads thought of the music they liked way back when. Yep. Shit.

        3. sabroni Silver badge
      2. AIBailey

        Home taping ISN'T killing music

        Simon Cowell is.

        1. lukewarmdog

          Re: Home taping ISN'T killing music

          Oh god if only home taping was killing simon cowell, I'd do a lot more of it.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      These old folks

      ...and their 2006 thinking.

      I wonder how they're going to handle the torrent site proxy whack a mole situation they got themselves in.

      All this bullshit is designed to create jobs that can be outsourced.

      Im sure we'll see a bunch of think tanks and consultancies pop up to fuck about with statistics and write reports on this bollocks now.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The BPI has sent over 450 million infringement notices to Google and Bing since 2011.

    How many of those were actual infringements, and how many were perfectly legal pages that the automated take-down flagged wrongly?

    1. Nick Kew

      How many cases like this make it in to the statistics?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That is all.....

  7. John H Woods

    Will they have to demote ...

    ... results for "alternative search engines" perhaps?

    1. ArrZarr

      Re: Will they have to demote ...

      As long as you aren't Google, not a damn will be given by anybody in a position to affect it.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There are people who use search engines to find illicit music?

    Bunch of amateurs.

    The first rule of Usenet....

  9. King Jack
    Big Brother

    Ministry of Peace

    Double plus good, that's all I have to say.

  10. JimmyPage


  11. Bob Rocket

    Google agrees to break Google

    Google refines search results by user selection in a form of A/B testing.

    These Anti-Pirates are the ones forcing Pirate material to the top of the results listings by

    1. using these search terms

    2. clicking on the first results returned .AND. not going back and clicking on the Amazon link

    If they clicked on the Amazon result after clicking on the first result, the Google algorithm would see that the first result was not the most satisfactory and re-rank the results.

  12. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    How about the government persuade google to stop fake support companies, fake government websites and other scammy services from appearing at the top of the google search results?

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Because the real support companies and real government departments are not lobbying and paying lawyers to get legislation enacted to deal with the problem.

  13. Jonjonz

    Its all posing

    No one searches for mp3 downloads. Everyone gets a browser plug in that instantly converts any of the millions of popular tunes on Youtube videos into mp3. Google actually sells advertising on many of these tunes videos while the copyright holder gets nothing.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Its all posing

      >Google actually sells advertising on many of these tunes videos while the copyright holder gets nothing.

      Possibly true, but look a little closer at many of the music videos.

      Product placement much?

      There are also two more things:

      1. if the illegal stuff on youtube disappeared, would you go out and buy it instead?

      2. if the illegal stuff on youtube was allowed, but it became unprofitable to produce more of that kind of thing, would the world be a worse place?

  14. Dwarf Silver badge

    I've been downloading music for free for decades now. Got one of those small box that allows you to listen live in your own home or car. IIRC I think its called a wireless or a radio.

    I'm even doing the same thing with Internet radio as the official DAB radio was a complete failure due to someone making bad decisions (for consumers) about how much money they could extract from licencing the spectrum by not designing the system with enough bandwidth for good audio quality per station - simple greed over listening pleasure, which really shows how much they care about paying customers.

    My point is that there has always been a mix of free and paid for music. Is a bit of music download from the Internet that bad ? Does it not get the band names into people's heads and if they like the music and its affordable for their budget, then they will buy the music. I think this step is called "marketing"

    As many others have said before, putting DRM in that makes it harder when you swap computers or listen on some new device, similarly, requiring internet connectivity to validate licences all causes problems for people when they are out of Internet range. Even things like Spotify have weird logic like "you must connect once per month", but when you decide to listen for the first time in a while and you are not on-line (i.e. on a train or tube), then it dumps your music downloads and refuses to let you listen. This is frustrating and costs in wasted data allowances and makes you less likely to listen again.

    Some bands even provide samples of their tracks in mp3 format on their web sites, so this could easily back fire so that those sites are not visible either - given that the same terms will presumably apply to all.

    Perhaps the music industry should consider their audience demographics - Children and teenagers generally don't have the disposable income for music, but they will probably change to paying customers when they get a little older ? Is this not an investment in the next generation ?

    Failure to connect to the next generation will surely lead to a decrease in revenue as they walk way.

  15. sysconfig

    Whether something is illegal or not... for courts to decide, not for governments, search engines, or the music industry.

    Censorship is in full swing in our so-called free western world.

  16. Daggerchild Silver badge

    Dark Opportunity..

    Google's going to have to accept that this will be the new norm - the Power Players know Search is what connects everyone, and they will all be fighting over it, using newer and sharper laws.

    Google will probably want to construct an Arena where the Players have to publicly construct new rules, in a rational and >demonstratably legal< manner so they, and we, can see what is being done to ourselves.

    This should be a good precursor for the inevitable Google Legal Navigation engine...

  17. Indolent Wretch

    It's not fair I searched for "Download Illegal Kanye torrent mp3" and it took me to a torrent site!

    "The BPI says 74 per cent of pirate downloads begin with a search engine"

    Now that figure will slowly drop.... By figure I mean the percentage not the actual number of illegal downloads which will follow the same trend it was following anyway.

  18. David Gosnell


    Will they also demote the indirect malware links some music searches lead to, which AFAIK are currently not flagged as such, by virtue of the indirection? Searching for a particular track leads to a hopeful looking result with a suitably large WAV download on an FTP server. Downloading the WAV it appears it's in an encrypted format, and requires the download of a proprietary decoder, which is of course pure malware. The downloaded "WAV" file itself is reportedly pure white noise to the appropriate length, probably served off a server that faked the size in the first place and just pipes from /dev/random to order. I hasten to add I've never got further than the initial download (for a legitimate purpose), but understand others have not been so lucky. It's a particularly nasty attack on those having to go to desperate lengths to find music not available by any other channel.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Good thing there's no way to get around Google UK demoting these search results...


    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  20. earl grey

    just for a day

    it would be nice if, just for a day, the "two big" search engines blocked say....

    The top 1000 song artists

    The top dozen music publishers

    All the top "rights" groups

    and returned the search with a "sorry, we can't provide that today to show you how government control of search is a bad thing..."

  21. Matthew 3

    Am I missing something?

    They are only talking about demoting the illegal search results. So anyone who wants a dodgy MP3 will simply click straight to page 5 of the search results, won't they?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No slope left, this is free fall.

    Restricting peoples access to information, particularly that which is illegal, is a great idea for government and the status quo. It is for the safety of the children and only targets criminals, such restrictions should have been in place all along.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The net is dying taken over by corporate greed

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      And also taken over by big government.

  24. IsJustabloke

    Damn Right they should put a stop to it....

    The fewer ways to get hold of Kanye TalentVacuum output the better. I

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too slow.

    Arent most people ripping youtube now?

    Barn door analogy here.

  26. David 132 Silver badge

    The article picture rather undermines their argument.

    Downloading Kanye/Yeezus tracks is the neatest of crimes, in that it inherently includes its own punishment. Maybe they should have picked a better image to use for illustration!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time to switch to for media files, then

    or if your russian is not up to scratch.

    1. P. Lee

      Re: Time to switch to for media files, then

      or a firefox extension which returns page 2 from google results.

      See? This is why open source is such good indicator of criminality!

      We should ban it.

      Or maybe, we should pass a law which says that google can only ever return one page of results. Maybe remove the "search" button and just leave the "I feel lucky" one.

  28. ZenCoder

    Apparences over Reality

    This kind of BS is the end result of someone being paid to look busy and pretend to be doing something useful about a problem.

    There will be no penalty for false positives so they will probably do something stupid like a broad keyword search for all sites having audio files for download without logging in.

    However somewhere will be able BS at length when asked what they are doing about music piracy.

  29. Ogi

    Run your own search engine?

    Yacy is a peer-to-peer search engine, everyone partakes in spidering and indexing sites for search.

    The more and more I see search engine companies move from helping me find information I want to controlling what information I see, the more I have been looking into running my own node:

    I can't think of a way for them to control the flow of information to you, if you have a copy of the index yourself. Plus the more people join in, the better the index gets.

    Plus it helps randomise the sites you visit, as the spidering tool goes constantly to random URLs, so some noise generation to reduce the SNR now that everywhere you visit is logged, yet which actually has some benefit to the community as well :-P

  30. GrapeBunch

    Medicine without leeches.

    If somebody wanted to set up a fair-use foundation, the music equivalent of a clearing house for donation-supported software, it would have some hurdles to clear. For example, one hurdle would be that 100% of the donated money got to the intended recipients. Another would be that the intended recipients be choosable. For each track, you could choose whether you wanted the donation to go to the musicians, to the technicians, to some charity, or to the label itself. We know in 2017 that this would not work, because the label executives always find ways to siphon off money. It's what they do. Expecting them to do otherwise is like expecting a rat to be tidy. So, would a government pass legislation prohibiting labels from siphoning or clawing back this money--and regardless of whatever weasel words are in the contracts with the musicians--with 3x damages and possible jail terms for the execs? Without that, the idea is a non-starter.

    You'd need good ways of anonymizing donations, first that a person donated at all, and second which particular pieces were chosen. Otherwise, labels would try to convince gov't that fair-use donations were an admission of copyright infringement. It's absurd, but it would take only one crooked administration somewhere in the world to start an ugly mudslide.

    So, for example, one might want to donate $5 for fair-use of The Beatles, Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds to the Timothy Leary Foundation (if there is such a thing, I apologise). On the credit card bill one would want it untraceable, and on the site, at its Lucy page, the donation would be credited to a hash code, which one (but not anybody else) could verify. For the untraceability aspect, it makes sense to me that the site fall under the wing of a large retailer, even though otherwise that makes me cringe. So it would show up on your credit card bill as a transaction with Orinoco, which nobody would question because 99.9% of its transactions are for widgets. Thinking out loud.

  31. Alan Penzotti

    Include them all

    Dear Google,

    When you implement this "to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites," please include ALL mentions of the works in question, including fan sites, the publishers and copyrights holders too.

    The publishers and copyright holders are the worst offenders when it comes to ripping off the artists.

  32. dbannon


    Yeah, Amazon, I tried to buy a piece of music from Amazon for my wife's funeral. They made me create a account, took my credit card details and then, and only then, said "No, you are in Oz, we don't supply this to Oz".

    My point is, they make it so hard, the illegal guys make it easy. Google ranking is based on who get the most clicks (to some degree) and people like "easy". If the legal people offered a better service, they might get a higher ranking naturally.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I'm happy that they are all over this "illegal web site" stuff. For obvious reasons I will not say why - let's just leave it at "it's never stopped me" ... Mostly I just get mp3 versions of my old LP's but occasionally I'll pick up something new, and on occasion I'll even buy the CD if it's any good.

  34. Mage Silver badge

    It's nonsense anyway

    a) Google returns higher up, sites that use their services (analytics, APIs, adverts, cloud etc) to make more money.

    b) Google thinks you are more interested now in using them as a bookmark service (deliberately accentuating places you visited before) rather than wanting a genuine search for places you never have seen.

    So obviously the screen shot is from someone always looking for warez, those are the regular sites used and/or they run Adsense etc.

    They seemed to stop being a neutral genuine search service years ago?

  35. nilfs2

    Google is the biggest pirate of them all

    Just look at YouTube

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too late, I've already filled my boots. The Sun will be just an ember by the time I've listened to everything I have.

    I pity the young'ns of today as they'll be force fed the same old top 40 crap, at least piracy gave you a chance to hear things you never even knew existed, a crate diggers wet dream.

  37. Winkypop Silver badge
    Big Brother

    war is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength

    We love you citizen. INGSOC

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In other news..

    Sales of TOR relays (yes this is a thing now), cheap WiFi modules with open firmware and routers with easily accessible Flash chips are going up.

    I did wonder about the ethics of operating a TOR "box" for folks who want to access the climate data and anything else of interest to amateur scientists like all the papers removed from arXiv, the peer review process is so flawed that we could have found room temperature superconductivity a dozen times by now but the papers keep getting taken down by the Establishment because it interferes with their HTSC gravy train.

  39. lukewarmdog

    What this really does..

    Surely if you just promote Amazon over all else, you solved the problem demonstrated here.

    Great for Amazon, great for Googles income streams as people pay to be higher than Amazon for the same search term.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    To the governments that are trying to control this... FUCK YOU! You do not get to dictate how we run our business, and we will pay no fines. If you don't like it, then you are welcome to block all traffic to and from our servers.

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