UK MPs condemn Google anti-piracy approach
A report on ‘Supporting the creative economy’ from the UK parliament’s lower chamber Commons Culture Media and Sport Committee recognises the extraordinary success of the UK’s creative industries but warns that this may be jeopardised by any dilution of intellectual property rights and the failure to tackle online piracy. The Committee also “strongly condemns” the “notable” failure of Google in particular to tackle access of copyright infringing websites through its search engine.
The Committee says that such illegal piracy, combined with proposals arising from the Hargreaves review to introduce copyright exceptions, and a failure to strengthen copyright enforcement along the lines envisaged by the Digital Economy Act 2010, together threaten the livelihoods of the individuals and industries that together contribute over £36 billion annually to the UK economy. The Committee says “this cannot be allowed to happen”.
It also says the Olympics No Marketing Rights scheme is excessively restrictive and is preventing British creative companies from realising the benefits they deserve from the Olympic legacy.
The Committee calls for:
- a central champion of Intellectual Property (IP) in Government to promote and protect the interests of UK IP
- the maximum penalty for serious online IP theft to be increased to 10 years imprisonment, to bring it into line with the punishment for such offences in the physical world
- much more evidence and scrutiny before any exceptions to copyright such as those envisioned in the Hargreaves review are applied, and says a private copying exemption for AV content is not justified
- the Government to redouble efforts to ensure that the video games tax credit is approved by the European Commission and introduced as soon as possible: current delays are harmful to the industry
- reforms to the income tax and tax reliefs systems to adequately recognise the freelance nature of much creative work
- Greater recognition of the importance of arts subjects in the curriculum
John Whittingdale MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “Britain’s creative industries are of huge importance to our economy and as successful as any in the world. We are blessed in the UK with extraordinary creativity which is backed up by superb training in technical skills and a supportive tax regime. However, all this will be put at risk if creators cannot rely on a strong framework of intellectual property rights which are robustly enforced. 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.”
“In addition, we are very concerned that the Hargreaves’ proposals to introduce certain copyright exceptions may create loopholes and dilute the protection of intellectual property rights. We are unconvinced of the claimed benefits that will result and believe that at the very least they require much closer scrutiny with clearer definitions and more evidence in support. 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. There is no reason why they cannot demote and ultimately remove sites hosting large amounts of illegal material from search engine results.”
“Google and others already work with international law enforcement to block for example child porn from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible reason why it can’t do the same for illegal, pirated content. Copyright infringement is a serious crime that threatens our economic future.”