Online piracy has proven to be like a mythological creature — whack one of its heads off, two grow in its place. And even as nations like France ponder cash fines or even tougher steps to quash illegal downloading, Google has said it’s doing its part by punishing sites with many piracy claims against them by reducing their search rankings. That move by the online search behemoth was announced in August, 2012, and the Recording Industry Association of America recently has offered its verdict: the trade group says Google’s move isn’t working to, among other things, protect the intellectual property rights of artists.

The recording industry, of course, always has a freighted relationship with Google because, as the net’s top search engine, it both makes it easy for customers to discover talent, while also providing possible access to piracy sites. Though Google proclaims it is “a friend to copyright owners,” it also asserts that it “already does much more to protect intellectual property than the law requires.” The RIAA initially was pleased with Google’s steps to lower rankings on sites for illegal downloading, removing them from the coveted first-page of its search results. “This ranking change should help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily,” wrote Amit Singhal, Google’s senior vice president of engineering. 

Six months later, though, little has changed. Google’s efforts, like many attempts to combat piracy, have been ineffective, the recording industry group says. It notes that the search engine’s “auto-fill” function isn’t helpful, since it can promote pirate sites. And despite Google’s updates to its search algorithms to filter illegal downloading sites, they still pop up at or near the top of the company’s search results. It is unclear if this is a deficiency on Google’s part or whether online pirates have outsmarted the system.

As a test, I typed “Justin Bieber mp3 download”, getting the following results:

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It will be worth watching to see if Google steps up efforts to keep peace with the music industry, particularly since the search-engine firm needs rights for creative materials for its sites like YouTube and Google Play. The RIAA, for its part, continues its push to popularize legal ways that fans more easily can find music online and it says it will stay atop Google and others in the war against piracy.