Google is hoping that one day, artificial intelligence will be able to assist the search engine giant in dealing with its piracy problem.
For now, Google has revealed a new way to block pirated content in its search index: before they are even indexed!
Typically, copyright holders identify an infringing link in Google's search results, and they submit this link, along with others to Google via a DMCA take-down notice. Google then processes these notices and removes all valid infringing links. At the time of writing, Google has already processed and removed more than 3.1 billion links in this manner.
In an article written for Landslide, the American Bar Association's publication, Google's copyright counsel Caleb Donaldson revealed that Google are now accepting take-down URLs that haven't even been added to Google's index yet.
"Google has critically expanded notice and takedown in another important way: We accept notices for URLs that are not even in our index in the first place. That way, we can collect information even about pages and domains we have not yet crawled," Donaldson writes.
"We process these URLs as we do the others. Once one of these not-in-index URLs is approved for takedown, we prophylactically block it from appearing in our Search results, and we take all the additional deterrent measures listed above."
This marks a small but significant shift in Google's stance towards piracy take-downs, and is a step closer to the "take down, stay down" favoured by rights-holders.
As for the distinct possibility of a pre-emptive take-down system being abused, Donaldson assures everyone that Google will be one step ahead of any attempts to abuse the "new" system.
"Google will push back if we suspect a notice is mistaken, fraudulent, or abusive, or if we think fair use or another defense excuses that particular use of copyrighted content," states Donaldson.
But all of this could become redundant in a future where artificial intelligence takes over the duty of removing pirated links. Google's Donaldson was vague when it came to how A.I. would be used to help Google take on piracy, but either as a way to process and approve/reject take-down notices, or as a way to proactively seek and destroy pirated content, it will no doubt add to the controversy surround what Google is willing to do to keep piracy out of its search results.