Once upon a time, Google had a pretty nasty reputation among traditional media companies, many of whom lampooned the search giant for promoting piracy and even "stealing" content outright. Much of the criticism was overblown, but it remains true that there is copyright-infringing content on the Internet and Google is may people's gateway to the Internet.
Google is still not exactly adored by many media companies and rights holders, but they've gone to great lengths to appease those that have traditionally created and sold content to the masses. In late August, Eric Schmidt spoke to a gathering of UK television executives and laid out a list of accomplishments Google has made in the fight against online piracy.
This week, the search engine stopped auto-suggesting terms related to file-sharing sites like the Pirate Bay, isoHunt and 4shared, adding to the list of phrases that are blacklisted from its Autocomplete feature, as well as from Google Instant search results.
Of course, none of these words are actually blocked from search results, but by removing them from Autocomplete, Google is implicitly discouraging people from searching for them and effectively decreasing the volume of searches performed for each one.
These changes are not by themselves momentous, but they're part of an ongoing evolution in Google's approach to digital piracy and media consumption. It's an issue through which the company has to tread carefully so as not to alienate its users, but at the same time Google is increasingly looking toward traditional content companies to help bolster some of its products.
Most recently, the company announced that they would be offering rentals of Disney movies on YouTube, as part of its ongoing effort to beef up its content offerings. This not only makes YouTube a more competitive service, but paves the way for Google TV to become a more desirable product in the eyes of consumers, who thus far have not flocked to use the platform.
Last week, Google publicly launched Google Music, leaving the cloud locker portion of the product free (up to 20,000 songs), but layering a robust MP3 store on top of it, complete with all kinds of competitive perks. It's that music storefront that gives Google its only hope of monetizing this new initiative, something that wouldn't have been possible without deals from three of the four major music labels.
These "old media" relationships are going to be increasingly critical to Google's success as it extends its business beyond search and goes up against other tech giants like Apple and Amazon.