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May 30, 2014

Google accused of failing to protect UK copyright

MP tells search engine to shift rankings based on piracy levels as music chief says it ispaying 'lip service' to stopping black market in content.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Calls have been made for Google to remove search links to pirated content blocked by UK ISPs, in an official report on how search engines can combat copyright infringement.

Mike Weatherley, MP, who acts as the intellectual property (IP) advisor to the Prime Minister also suggested that Google remove autocomplete suggestions pertaining to piracy, introduce trust marks indicating when content is legal, and demote results from websites with previous copyright infractions.

He said: "Search Engines can and must use the resources available to them in order to safeguard the UK’s creative industries.

"Piracy remains the biggest threat to the growth of digital commerce; if we want the UK to continue to be a leader in creativity and innovation, the UK must also be an international leader of IP rights protection."

Last year’s Digital Entertainment Survey found that 65% of pirates regularly use search engines to find infringing content. Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed said it was important to protect creative industries from piracy.

Questions over the culpability of websites merely linking users to pirated material have been a prominent factor in the longevity of pirate search engines, with representatives from the music and film industries pressing for punitive measures against such websites.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of British record trade association BPI, said: "Other online intermediaries such as advertisers and payment providers have taken voluntary action to counter the growth of the online black market.

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"Google, which dominates UK search, has paid lip service to the issue but in practice has done little to address the ethical loophole in its algorithm, which directs millions of consumers to sites it clearly knows to be illegal."

Weatherley added that Google and other search engines had been helpful in compiling the discussion document, stressing that they were not the cause of piracy even if their tools inadvertently facilitated it.

The news comes following the resurgence of Torrentz.eu, a filesharing search engine that went down for 24 hours during a City of London investigation into copyright infringement. Last week also saw Cricfree and FileCrop being taken down under similar circumstances.

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