updated 10:13 am EDT, Fri May 30, 2014
Search ranking demotions, autocorrect reporting among anti-piracy suggestions
Google is not doing enough to protect the UK film and music industry from piracy, an adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed. A report by MP Mike Weatherley, an adviser specializing in intellectual property, calls for Google and other search engines to fight harder against piracy, which is estimated to cost content producers in the country over £400 million ($669.3 million) annually.
"Search engines can - and must - use the resources available to them in order to safeguard the UK's creative industries," said Weatherley according to the Guardian. Calling piracy the "biggest threat to the growth of digital commerce," Weatherly warns the UK must be an "international leader of intellectual property rights protection" if it wants to continue to lead in creativity and innovation.
The report recommends a number of initiatives that Google and other online entities could adopt. Sites offering pirated content should be demoted in rankings, writes Weatherley, with the view that search engines should "promote and demote content in search results based on the legality of that content." Websites blocked in the UK by court order should also be removed from search results, as it is claimed a large amount of traffic to pirate sites stem from searches. Autocomplete is also raised as a concern, with the suggestion that Google should collaborate with industry bodies to create a "formal reporting and take-down system for illegitimate Autocomplete Terms."
While the majority of recommendations aim towards dragging down pirate sites in the search rankings, and in some cases removing them, some do suggest ways to promote legal content. Citing research from Ofcom that 44 percent of consumers "lack confidence in identifying legal content online," it is suggested search engines should look into ways to incorporate "trust marks and warnings" into its results, as a form of consumer education.
"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," writes Weatherley, though he warns "no one single player is capable of solving piracy, nor should any individual or company be responsible for solving the issue on their own." The report also acknowledges existing efforts by Google to deal with copyright infringement, adding that Google should not be "blamed" for piracy, and should be "congratulated for positive engagement."
A Google spokesperson told the Guardian the company "is committed to tackling piracy and our action is industry leading. We invest tens of millions of pounds in technology to tackle piracy and last month alone we removed more than 23 million links to infringing content."
Earlier this month, it was revealed major Internet providers in the UK were close to agreeing with the entertainment industry on a piracy warning system. If agreed, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Program will send warning letters to suspected infringers, with the content becoming more serious in tone, though stopping short of penalizing letter recipients.