Google isn’t doing enough to stop online piracy and must take a leading role in a battle which is costing the UK music and film industry over £400 million (€491m) annually, according to a report published by David Cameron’s intellectual property adviser.
MP Mike Weatherley says search engines, and market leader Google in particular, should do more to tackle piracy in the UK. Weatherley has drawn up a list of recommendations for business secretary Vince Cable, including blocking the online ad funding that supports pirate websites.
“Search engines can – and must – use the resources available to them in order to safeguard the UK’s creative industries,” said Weatherley. “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 intellectual property rights protection.”
Weatherley said that it was important to stress that search engines are not the cause of online piracy, however they play a hugely important role inadvertently guiding consumers towards illegal content.
“As the main provider of search facilities in the UK it is widely felt that Google should take the lead in setting responsible industry standards for search,” Weatherley says in the report.
However he added that “no one single player” is capable of solving the piracy problem, and it is “inaccurate, unrealistic and a diversion” to focus on Google and search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo as the only solution.
The series of recommendations includes “educating” consumers about piracy by introducing “warning marks” as a guide to legitimate services.
Rights holders would also like Google and other search engines to prioritise legal websites in their search results. Search engines should also work with rights holders to establish a system whereby pirate sites are removed from search results if a court order has been issued to the UK’s main Internet companies telling them to block access.
Geoff Taylor, the chief executive of music industry body the BPI, accused Google of paying “lip service” to helping tackle piracy.
“Other online intermediaries, such as advertisers and payment providers, have taken voluntary action to counter the growth of the online black market,” he said. “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.”
A Google spokesman defended its practices, saying it invests millions in anti-piracy measures.
“Google is committed to tackling piracy and our action is industry leading,” he said. “We invest tens of millions of pounds in technology to tackle piracy and last month alone we removed more than 23m links to infringing content. However as Mike Weatherley makes clear in his report ‘to focus on Google/search engines as the only solution to piracy would be inaccurate, unrealistic and a diversion from the main culprits’.”