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UK Parliament chides Google for not de-ranking 'piracy' websites

Commons report says Google should do more
Thu Sep 26 2013, 09:21
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THE UK Parliament Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee has wagged a finger at Google for not de-ranking filesharing websites.

The Committee is concerned that Google does not de-rank websites that are notorious for filesharing, and this has been welcomed by the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the UK tentacle of the music industry cartel.

A report said that the UK music industry is a bright spot, but is affected by so-called 'pirates'. It accused Google of "notable" failures to suppress filesharing websites.

Committee chair John Whittingdale MP said that delays in the implementation of the Digital Economy Act were a drain on industry revenues. He said that if a voluntary agreement between the music industry and internet service providers is not reached, the only solution will be government enforcement.

"The delays in implementing measures to prevent piracy in the Digital Economy Act are costing the creative industries millions of pounds with serious consequences for the wider economy. We very much welcome recent moves to obtain a voluntary agreement between rights owners and internet service providers to take measures to deter illegal file-sharing. However, if this fails to materialise, the Government must use the powers given to it by Parliament in the Digital Economy Act," he said.

"We are also unimpressed by Google's continued failure to stop directing consumers to illegal, copyright infringing material on the flimsy excuse that some of the sites may also host some legal content. The continuing promotion of illegal content through search engines is simply unacceptable, and efforts to stop it have so far been derisory."

The MP said that there is no reason why the web firms cannot demote or remove websites, adding that they already work with law enforcement on the removal of child abuse images.

This is not all the government wants, and also on its agenda is an increase in the maximum penalty for serious online "intellectual property theft". The committee thinks that this should be 10 years, or a penalty similar to that for real world crimes.

The BPI liked this. "Britain is a world leader in music and creativity and our economic future depends on how well we compete in a global economy of ideas. The inquiry is right to conclude that Government's policy should be to support the strong intellectual property rights that underpin our success, not dilute them, and to act swiftly to enable those rights to be effectively enforced," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.

"We also agree with the unequivocal finding that Google should end its practice of listing known illegal sites prominently in search results, a key driver of online piracy. Both consumers and the digital economy will be better off if fans looking for music and other content are directed to the many great services that offer it legally."

Non fans said that this is another example of the push to bring about the miserable Digital Economy Act that ignores the facts about digital downloading.

"I wonder if MPs take the time to read actual evidence, rather than floating vague conspiracies about Google's access to power. OfCom's exhaustive research demonstrates that file sharing should be of little concern to government or content companies. In fact, as ever, the so-called pirates are found to be the best customers, spending almost twice as much on content," said Pirate Party UK Leader Loz Kaye.

"Once again we can see how the BPI and their friends in parliament are missing the point with their obsession with the 'piracy' narrative. It is digital that is driving growth - they should be focusing on the failures of the rural and urban broadband rollout programmes. Poor infrastructure will be the cause of actual lost sales, not Google search results. The real problem faced by the creative industries is not enough Internet, rather than too much."

Google says that it does good work in the anti-piracy area, and told us that it already removes millions of links.

"We removed more than 20 million links to pirated content from our search results in the last month alone. But search is not the problem - according to Ofcom just eight per cent of infringers in the UK use Google to find unlicensed film and 13 per cent to find unlicensed music," said a spokesperson.

"Google works harder than anyone to help the film and music industry protect their content online." µ


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