Google on Friday said it is tweaking its search formula to give higher priority to legal content and sink rankings for websites hit with piracy complaints.
"Starting next week, we will begin taking into account a new signal in our rankings: the number of valid copyright removal notices we receive for any given site," Google senior vice president of engineering Amit Singhal said in a blog post.
"This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily -- whether it's a song previewed on NPR's music website, a TV show on Hulu or new music streamed on Spotify."
More than 200 "signals" are factored into Google's secret search algorithm for determining what gets priority on results pages.
Since Google revamped its copyright removal process two years ago it has been able to gather much more data about pirated content popping up online, according to Singhal.
Google said that it receives more copyright removal notices daily - some 4.3 million in the past 30 days - than it did in all of 2009.
"Sites with high numbers of removal notices may appear lower in our results," Singhal said.
Google provides "counter-notice" tools for website operators to challenge piracy accusations.
Motion Picture Association of America senior executive vice president Michael O'Leary said the film industry group was optimistic that change would help steer people away from "rogue cyberlockers, peer-to-peer sites, and other enterprises that steal the hard work of creators across the globe."
"We will be watching this development closely -- the devil is always in the details -- and look forward to Google taking further steps to ensure that its services favor legitimate businesses and creators, not thieves," O'Leary said.