Google Makes It Easy to Illegally Download 60% of Top-Selling Albums

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Last week we posted the news that Google is making it extremely easy to search Grooveshark, who has been found guilty of massive copyright infringement.

Google has just released a new piracy report, and posted a blog post bragging about their piracy-fighting efforts. The biggest news is changes to search results for movies and music.

Google has rolled out new ad formats for people searching for free movies. These ads link to sites like Amazon or Walmart, where people can pay to watch the movie online.

They’ve also pointed out that searches for artists or albums often bring up links to Spotify, VEVO, or other “legitimate” services. This has been in place for a while.Google also says that they’re going to downrank sites with a lot of legitimate DMCA takedown notices, starting this week. They’ve also begun to demote autocomplete search terms based on DMCA takedown notices.

It could be a while before we see results, but I tested the waters by searching for the top-selling Billboard albums. I didn’t go too deep, just a couple clicks to see how easy it is to find illegal downloads using Google.

  1. Jason Aldean’s Old Boots, New Dirt is the #1 charting Billboard album, yet it isn’t even a suggested Google search. I wasn’t able to easy find a download.
  2. Searching for Hozier’s Hozier led me to a suggested search of “Hozier Hozier Zip”, which pulled up a whole list of download results (pictured above).
  3. I easily found download links for Barbra Streisand’s Partners.
  4. I was surprised to find no illegal first page search results for Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s Cheek to Cheek. Top results linked to Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, etc. Google says they removed one search result due to a DMCA complaint.
  5. The suggested search of “weezer everything will be alright in the end leak” led to a couple illegal downloads, but Google also says they removed nine results due to DMCA complaints.

I won’t verify that these illegal download links actually work, but I’m pretty sure I could have easily downloaded Hozier, Streisand, and Weezer’s albums. I give Google a 2.5/5.


Nina Ulloa covers breaking news, tech, and more. Follow her on Twitter: @nine_u

29 Responses

  1. FeudalYeoman

    What rank would you give The Pirate Bay?
    And given you didn’t verify any of the links, is that why Google gets a 2.5/5? Half of 5? Why not 5/10?
    Or are you just a Millennial who got paid a few bucks to write this article? $15-$30? Or are your parents connected? 🙂
    Also, if you allow this comment with a direct link to The Pirate Bay, how would you rank your own site?
    Shhh… don’t tell anyone.

    • Nina Ulloa

      given that all the links on the pirate bay would be illegal i would give them a 0.

      are my parents connected to what? what are you even trying to imply

      • Anonymous

        What I love about pro-music sites like is that they don’t allow advertizing for, or links to, illegal sites.

        Sad to see DMN support organized crime…

    • Anonymous

      “if you allow this comment with a direct link to The Pirate Bay, how would you rank your own site?”


  2. Dave

    Did you actually try to download the album from any of those links that remained in the search results? I bet if you would have tried you’d have gone down a number of dead ends that would have left you frustrated enough to seek out one of the legal sources. The larger majority of the supposed ‘free album’ links just result in endless pop-ups. Let’s face it… it’s way easier for consumers today to just go find a legal option (finally!) that illegal downloads are not really the problem anymore. More hassle than they are worth.

    • Lynch

      Not really. It’s pretty quick and painless to download an album and avoid all pop-ups unless you’re new to the internet. You’re right, there are easier alternatives for consumers, but those include Youtube and other streaming platforms. Nobody is running back towards iTunes / Amazon, so the problem is not really fixed.

  3. Me

    If you didn’t actually download, you have no proof that those links worked. I give you a 1/5.

  4. Wastrel

    Phrases like “I wasn’t able to easy find a download” and “a couple illegal downloads,” along with the failure to actually try the links are good indicators of the care and journalistic rigor that went into constructing this article. I wish you actually had tried some of the links, and accepted the offer to download “Hozier-Hozier-download.exe” or something similar to your Windows machine. You’d be getting what you deserve.

  5. Anonymous

    “Google also says that they’re going to downrank sites with a lot of legitimate DMCA takedown notices”

    We don’t need downranking, we need permanent removal. And that won’t happen. Google makes fortunes from monetizing access to stolen Intellectual Property.

    That’s why we need that update to the DMCA…

    • FarePlay

      At the Congressional Copyright Hearing on DMCA, back in March of this year, the Google rep, talks about Google’s proactive response placing “legitimate” ad links at the top of search pages where there are infringing sites. Creating an opportunity for Google and their “legitimate” partners to make money.

      Smoking gun? Hardly, a careless admission by someone who clearly perceives the problem in a very different light.

      • Anonymous

        “Google rep, talks about Google’s proactive response placing “legitimate” ad links at the top of search pages where there are infringing sites”

        Man, that’s so offensive, such an insult… I don’t know what to say…

  6. jw

    To be fair, unless you made it to the ACTUAL ZIP FILE, none of this counts.

    From Google, gives me a “This webpage is not available” message, the page won’t even load.

    The page goes to a page that links to a page that links to what may or may not be a file locker upload of the album. But clicking on “download this album now” just displays 3 marketing offers, one of which you have to complete before it will actually send you along to what may or may not actually be a zip of the album.

    The page AND the page actually link to the EXACT SAME page as, & puts you into the same loop.

    From the search results you screen capped, I was not able to successfully download the zip, though I refused to participate in the surveys & give out my e-mail address.

    So, ultimately, Google is linking to pages that LINK to pages that may or may not ever lead you to actual pirated material. These pages are created based on popular search terms in order to siphon traffic from Google & deliver advertising impressions, not to actually serve pirated material. And a search result in Google might end up linking to a file hosting service that has already acted on a DMCA & removed the infringing content (this is actually very, very often the case).

    It’s important to note that these sites are only interested in ad revenue, not delivering infringing content. They don’t host the pirated content & they don’t even feel obligated to deliver on the promised content. They’re either interjecting themselves into chain as middle men by pumping up their SEO rating, or they’re being paid by another middle man to deliver traffic because of their SEO rating.

    So ultimately a lot of the “infringing content” that’s left on Google could be mostly smoke & mirrors until anyone really takes the time to go down those paths & see where they lead. That would actually be a much more interesting article.

    • Anonymous

      You’re just a pirate jw, so it doesn’t matter what you think.

      • jw

        That old trope again? lol.

        You’re probably the worst debater on the internet.

  7. Anonymous

    Is it ok to use Bing? Is there an artist friendly search engine?

    • Anonymous

      Search engines don’t have to be ‘artist friendly’ — they just have to stop making money from piracy.

      • Anonymous

        Ok. Is there a search engine that does not make money from piracy. If so, I would like to use it so that I am not supporting one that does.

        • Anonymous

          Nobody makes as much money from providing access to illegal content as Google, but we need to take a good look at all the search engines — and the DMCA that makes it so easy to profit from organized copyright crime without any consequences.

        • Anonymous

          Google gets all the flack because they are the most popular search engine. Pretty much any other search engine is better for piracy.

          • Anonymous

            Google’s business model is to monetize access to other people’s property without permission. You can’t say that about any other company except the Pirate Bay.

            It’s not only about music, movies and ordinary people’s private information either — go ask authors what they think about Google’s book scanning projects…

  8. Amyt

    Search for any hit song in google and on the first page, very often the top results are from websites like and other YouTube to mp3 ripping websites. These websites are cropping up every day, are monetised with ads. This is how most people are getting their music downloads now. And I doubt google is going to do anything about it considering it’s in googles interest to “give people what they are looking for”

  9. Anon

    Wait, Barbra Streisand a “Top Selling Album” (I know it was a while ago)? Something tells me there is too much b*tching, moaning and gnashing of teeth when there should be some decent art being created. Nothing against Barbra but really? Hozier can do it – c’mon, he has talent but there has to be more than a few that read DMN that have this talent. Quit b*tching and get to work! All of us are waiting! Let your music do the talking! If you don’t then it may be best to find another career – don’t let anyone make you a victim. I get it, it sucks, but do not have a legacy of not even hitting a chart that has Barbra Streisand (in 2014!) at the top.

    Piracy? It’s stealing but many that get “hurt” are the ones that would never be heard if not for pirates… if the tree falls in the forest blah blah blah… But, then again, you could have doubled that iTunes check of $.25. Y’all sound like the majors in the 1970’s when the blank cassette tape was going to break them because only one person would buy the album, tape it and then pass it on. They never really mentioned that it it actually increased sales through exposure.

    I am in the position to (literally) listen to as much new music as I have time for – there is some great stuff out there which I am obliged to pass on.

  10. hippydog

    I tried putting in “Hozier’s Hozier”
    I dont know why google wanted you to use “zip” at the end or why you would select that option..

    but either way.. for me the first page of results was all legal results..


    Obviously Google seems to be serious about this..

    but hey..
    (sarcasm font) thanks Google!

    now that you have made your money from illegal downloads..
    and now that you have your own music service to protect..
    its a great time to finally start implementing this..
    (/sarcasm font)

  11. Leaver

    Why don’t they just remove sites like mp3clan/mp3olimp/mp3vip etc. completely from their index?