'The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable'

Select Committee condemns Google’s failure to tackle piracy

The Culture, Media and Sport Committee has condemned Google for failing to prevent its search engine from directing consumers to copyright and file-infringing websites.

A new report on supporting the UK’s creative economy noted the web search giant had not provided an adequate response to the creative industry’s piracy concerns.

It also stated the Committee was unimpressed by the company’s “evident reluctance” to block such copyright infringing sites “on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content”.

It labelled the continued enabling of access to such sites “unacceptable”.

“We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites,” read a statement.

“We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content. The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective.”

The report added it was unconvinced engineers employed at Google and other search engine websites could not demote or even remove copyright infringing sites from search results.

“Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content,” read a statement.

The Select Committee was equally unimpressed with the Hargreaves report of intellectual property, used to help set Government agenda on the matter, labelling that report “wrong” and of a “low standard” due to an underlying agenda pushed by technology companies such as Google.

“We do not consider Professor Hargreaves has adequately assessed the dangers of putting the established system of copyright at risk for no obvious benefit,” it said.

“We are deeply concerned that there is an underlying agenda driven at least partly by technology companies (Google foremost among them) which, if pursued uncritically, could cause irreversible damage to the creative sector on which the United Kingdom’s future prosperity will significantly depend."

The Select Committee has recommended the Government appoint a champion of IP to help protect UK copyright interests and coorindate enforcement locally and overseas, as well as educating consumers on the effects of piracy.

It also suggested the maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft be extended to ten years’ imprisonment, and that offences receive the same level of punishment as those for physical products.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the Government had formed a new intellectual property crime unit which has the power to seize assets and shut down sites found to be hosting pirated material, such as games.

The unit plans to work with online advertisers, payment service providers and overseas authorities to disrupt the revenue streams of such websites.

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