Google’s Pirate Update Explained And Recovery From DMCA Violations

The Pirate update has nothing to do with treasure hunts but everything to do with copyright infringement. Piracy is a big deal. It has been since the advent of the internet. Realizing this, Google has taken steps to ensure that sites with pirated and stolen content don’t benefit from its platform. With the pirate update, these sites are downranked and removed from search results. While not all areas are caught, Google is still working to ensure that pirated sites are punished and that rights owners don’t suffer from illegal distribution of their content.

Launch Date: August 10, 2012

August 2012 wasn’t the first time Google laid down the law on copyright infringement, but it was the central turning point for tracking down and punishing sites that published pirated content.

What Google’s Pirate Update Impacted

There’s only one trigger for the Pirate update, and that’s a website that publishes pirated content. More specifically, you’ll feel the update’s effects if your site has been reported for copyright infringement that violates the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).

In short, the DMCA issued that it’s a criminal offense to provide any stolen or pirated media. Because pirating is widespread, Google decided to step up its algorithmic monitoring of sites that pirate items. If you’ve got pirated content on your site, and you’ve had multiple copyright infringement reports filed against you—including a notice filed by the owner of the material—you’re not only going to be downranked but also removed from the SERPs, altogether.

How Google’s Pirate Update Works

Pirating songs, films, and video games—essentially any form of digital media or entertainment—is a massive issue. Though Google can’t go through every page on the internet to ensure no pirated material is out there, the Pirate algorithm update targets sites that violate the copyright guidelines set in place by the DMCA.

Every month, Google receives and processes millions of copyright removal notices. But because Google itself cannot determine if the content is pirated—only courts can decide if a copyright has been infringed—they don’t remove any pages unless the rights owner submits a valid copyright removal notice.

If a site has a report filed against it, and Google determines the information is valid, that site will be severely downranked. Despite the enormity of Google and all the content it has indexed, it still has a reputation to uphold. It wants to work within legal boundaries while simultaneously giving its users exactly what they want. So if someone enters a query searching for a specific movie, Google wants to avoid giving piracy sites the top slots in their SERPs. The Pirate update makes this possible.

Even if a user enters a movie title with the words “watch,” “download,” or “torrent,” Google automatically filters out free streaming sites and gives legal options, like links to Netflix, Amazon, Google Play, and the like. However, these pirated sites can still be accessed if you search for them directly and by name. They won’t appear in organic search results if you’re entering generic queries, like “how to watch [movie] for free.”

How To Fix Your Website If The Pirate Update impacted it

If you have noticed a steep drop in your rankings and page visits, ask yourself if you’ve got illegal content on your site. This could range from a very obvious copyright infringement—like offering a movie for free to place guests—to something a little less in-your-face, like music in the background of a video on your page. If you are using a film or theme without express permission from the owner, you’re breaking copyright law! Sometimes, mistakes are made when you don’t know about these laws or aren’t thinking when editing together content. But if you offer pirated media intentionally, stop it! If you’re in the former group and are looking to recover or even prevent a hit by Pirate, here are a couple of things you can do:

Remove Content that Violates the DMCA

If you’ve got media that is pirated, remove it. It’s that simple. Takedown illegal content, and the Pirate update will have no reason to target and punish you.

Keep Your Main Domain Separate

Many sites, maybe yours included, allow users to add content to pages. If this is the case, keep your main domain separate from the user-generated content on your site. You can’t always control what people publish, so this will keep you safe despite their mistakes or negligence.


The Pirate update won’t be an issue for the general population of site owners. Most sites penalized by Pirate are actual piracy or torrent sites, and they know exactly what they’re doing. Google’s primary target with this update is the sites that intentionally offer pirated content. By downranking them and removing them from organic search results, Google is doing its part to keep the internet clean and free of illegal media. If you need help with your enterprise SEO or local SEO, feel free to reach out.

Additional Google Update Resources

Google’s Pirate Update Explained And Recovery From DMCA Violations
Google’s Venice Update Explained
Google’s BERT Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Exact Match Domain Update Explained
Google’s Fred Update Explained and Recovery Methods
Google’s Helpful Content Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Hummingbird Update Explained and SEO Strategies
Google’s Mobile Update Explained and How To Fix Your Website
Google’s Panda Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Payday Loan Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Penguin Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Pigeon Update Explained and Local SEO Strategies
Google’s Possum Update Explained & Local SEO
Google’s Product Reviews Update and Fixing Your Website
Google’s RankBrain Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Top Heavy Update Explained and Recovery Strategies
Google’s Page Experience Update and How To Fix Your Website