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UK brokers search engine deal to demote pirate sites

The Google and Bing search engines are to demote piracy websites after signing a voluntary code of practice in talks with the entertainment industry led by the UK government

Google and Microsoft have signed a voluntary code of practice for demoting copyright infringing websites in their search results.

The agreement was reached with the film and music industry in talks brokered by the UK government’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO), assisted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

The anti-piracy initiative was also supported by telecoms regulator Ofcom, which explored techniques for preventing consumers from being led to copyright infringing websites, according the BBC.

The IPO said the code of practice, which was agreed on 9 February 2017 and comes into force immediately, sets targets for reducing the visibility of infringing content in search results by 1 June 2017.

According to the IPO, around 6.7 million UK internet users access pirated films, music, books and other material online.

The initiative will run in parallel with existing anti-piracy measures in the UK, which include court-ordered site blocking, efforts to reduce advertising revenues to piracy websites and the Get it Right From A Genuine Site education campaign.

Jo Johnson, minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, will oversee the implementation of the code of practice, and the IPO will work with all parties to evaluate progress.

“Search engines play a vital role in helping consumers discover content online,” said Johnson. “It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites.

“I am very pleased that the search engines and representatives of the creative industries have agreed this code. I look forward to this valuable collaboration benefiting both the UK’s digital and creative sectors,” he said.

Matt Hancock, digital and culture minister, said the UK is one of the world’s leading digital nations and has a responsibility to make sure that consumers have easy access to legal content online.

“Pirate sites deprive artists and rights holders of hard-earned income and I’m delighted to see industry-led solutions like this landmark agreement which will be instrumental in driving change.

“As we build a more global Britain we want the UK to be the most innovative country to do business, and initiatives such as this will ensure our creative and digital economies continue to thrive,” he said.

Read more about anti-piracy measures

Welcoming the initiative, Stan McCoy of the Motion Picture Association in Europe, said pirated websites are currently too easy to find through search engines.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the UK recorded music industry body BPI, said: “Successful and dynamic online innovation requires an ecosystem that works for everyone, users, technology companies, and artists and creators.

“The code will not be a silver bullet fix, but it will mean that illegal sites are demoted more quickly from search results and that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.”

The film and music industry has long accused search engines of turning a blind eye to piracy and being slow to adopt measures to protect copyright online.

But, commenting on the initiative, a Google spokesman told The Telegraph that Google has been an active partner for many years in the fight against piracy online.

“We remain committed to tackling this issue and look forward to further partnership with rights holders,” he said.

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