Seeking to disassociate itself with copyright infringement in the eyes of potential business partners, Google says it’s made progress in its effort to combat online piracy this year.

The company’s four-pronged approach to reeling in the amount of copyright-infringing content found on its sites was announced in December in response to years of criticism from media outlets and rights holders over the ease with which users have been able to publish and find such content via Google’s properties, including YouTube and Blog Search.

The search giant claims to be fulfilling its prior vow that it would respond to Digitial Millenium Copyright Act (DCMA) content removal requests within 24 hours, a process it has expedited by giving publishers the tools to more easily report infringement. Chairman Eric Schmidt told a gathering of UK television executives last week that the company’s average response time to takedown requests is down to four hours.

Google has made two changes to its search results pages aimed to discourage piracy and promote original content when published by its rightful owners. Rich Music Snippets help highlight legit audio content, while changes they made to Autocomplete have blacklisted a number of piracy-related search terms, so as not to appear to openly encourage copyright infringement.

They’ve also begun to more actively enforce their long-standing prohibition against AdSense users displaying Google’s ads on pages that offer pirated content.

In more directly addressing copyright issues, Google is not only protecting itself from future litigation like Viacom’s failed $1 billion lawsuit, but also assuages the concerns of large content providers, with whom Google needs to partner if it wants initiatives like Google TV, Google Music, Google Books and its YouTube movie rental service to succeed.

“We are not your enemy and we want to help,” Schmidt told the crowd at the Edinburgh Television Festival. Not coincidentally, the company announced the day before that Google TV would soon be launching in Europe, starting with the UK.