Google Fights Piracy (And Makes A Buck) With Ads For Legal Downloads In Search Results

Image courtesy of These sorts of ads began showing up over the summer when Google users added terms like "torrent" or "DVDrip" to their searches.

These sorts of ads began showing up over the summer when Google users added terms like "torrent" or "DVDrip" to their searches.

These sorts of ads began showing up over the summer when Google users added terms like “torrent” or “DVDrip” to their searches.

Have you been wanting to catch up on Game of Thrones but don’t have HBO (or a friend who will share her HBO Go login info)? People who search for things like “Game of Thrones Download” on Google are now being greeted by ads from services offering legal ways to pay for the content you’re after.

These sorts of ads began popping up on Google over the summer, but the company refused to acknowledge at the time that they were an anti-piracy effort, only saying the ads showed up for “various searches.”

Google finally confirmed the anti-piracy motive late last week in its latest “How Google Fights Piracy” report.

So now the Google search engine has two variations on how it serves up legitimate sources (who also happened to have paid Google for ad placement) for obtaining content legally.

The first is the Game of Thrones example seen above. The ads for Vudu and Amazon likely won’t show up (they didn’t for us) if you’re just searching for “Game of Thrones.” But if you enter “Game of Thrones download,” you’ll get these top-placed ads targeted at people who are the most likely to be hunting for a free ride to Westeros (or Essos).

“When users search with the intention to consume media, we may show new ad formats on those queries directing users to legitimate sources,” explains Google.

So having the name of some movie, song, or TV show with other search terms like “download,” or “torrent” will bring up these ads for legal alternatives.

There is another type of anti-piracy ad that Google is rolling out that brings up legal suggestions in the box to the right of the search results. This one seems to be more focused on music artists and can be triggered just by searching for an artist’s name.

So typing in simply “Justin Timberlake” brings up the below module with some free-ish suggestions for how to listen to his music:

This is all similar to a plan that Comcast was reportedly working on that would identify when content was possibly being shared illegally and then present the customer with a legitimate way to buy that content.

While the entertainment industry always loves a way to push a purchase over a freeload, some are not so thrilled that only those services that are willing to pay for ad space on Google are getting recommended.

In the UK, music industry group BPI, tells BBC News that “There should be no cost when it comes to serving consumers with results for legal services,” saying that Google should use available industry data that lists all services licensed for streaming music in the UK.

At the same time as Google is promoting sources for legal purchases, it says it is going further in demoting the search results for “notorious” sources of illegally shared content.

“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, according to

That said, the Google report downplays the search engine’s usefulness to people looking for pirated content.

“Google Search is not how music, movie, and TV fans intent on pirating media find pirate sites,” reads the report, which claims that only 16% of traffic to sites like The Pirate Bay come through search engines. “In fact, several notorious sites have said publicly that they don’t need search engines, as their users find them through social networks, word of mouth, and other mechanisms.”

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