Google and Bing to hide Pirate’s treasure

In the latest battle between rights holders and online pirates, the BPI, Motion Picture Association and Alliance for IP have dealt a blow to infringing websites, by negotiating a Code of Practice with Google and Bing. The new code represents a commitment by the search engines to remove results linked to copyright infringing websites from the first page of search results. This commitment is thought to be a world first and is expected to be in effect by summer 2017.

The UK IPO, assisted by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, acted as a broker to negotiations between rights holders and the major search engine providers. Ofcom was also consulted during the process. This shows a joined-up, co-ordinated approach within government, as well as industry, to pursuing online copyright infringement.

Whilst this appears to be a major achievement by the UK creative industries and the UK Government, Google has indicated that it already has measures in place to deal with piracy. Google removes specific page links from search results when rights holders can demonstrate an infringement. Also, websites with a significant amount of takedown request are already placed lower down in search results. Despite the new code, we expect Google to continue to deal with piracy in this way, rather than implementing any new initiatives as a result of the new code.

The creative industries seem to acknowledge that interfering with search engine results is not the solution to the piracy problem, but it is a step in the right direction. Geoff Taylor, chief executive of music industry body the BPI is reported to have said: “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.”

Therefore, it will still be extremely important for rights holders to utilise the existing arsenal of anti-piracy measures available in the UK. As we have previously reported, UK and EU courts can order internet service providers to block certain websites associated with piracy, whether that’s relating to digital content or counterfeit goods. By summer 2017, we are also expecting the Digital Economy Bill to receive royal assent after being approved by Parliament and the House of Lords. This will see jail sentences for online piracy increase from a maximum of two years to ten years. This is another indication of the UK Government’s strong stance on stamping out piracy, which IP Partner Wayne Beynon has commented on in the Huffington Post.