Mike Weatherley, Intellectual Property Adviser to the Prime Minister and Conservative Member of Parliament for Hove and Portslade, has published a report entitled Search Engines and Piracy, which outlines the shortcomings of search engine providers in the fight against online piracy.
The report recognises that although search engines cannot be attributed as a cause of online piracy, they can certainly do more to tackle the high level of piracy in the UK. Piracy is estimated to cost the creative industries £400m per year in music and film alone. The report asserts that Google, as the main provider of search facilities in the UK, should take a leading role amongst search engines to tackle online piracy.
Mike’s threefold approach to prevent online piracy – “education, carrot and stick” – aims to reduce IP crime and encourage the industry to provide easier access to legal material. Mike’s additional “Follow the Money” initiative, adopted following a 2013 study demonstrating the effectiveness of targeting revenue streams that fund piracy sites, has also played an important role in the fight against IP crime.
Key recommendations that are proposed in the report include tackling the funding for pirates under the “Follow the Money” initiative as well as devising a protocol between search engines and rights holders to remove blocked sites from search algorithms once a formal court order blocking the sites from access via the main UK ISPs has been made.
Cutting off revenue sources that fund illegal sharing is an effective measure, with estimates stating that 95% of pirate sites could close as a result of the initiative. Further recommendations of the report address the ‘education’ part of Mike’s strategy through the proposal of ‘warning marks’, which would offer consumers guidance as to which sites are legitimate, as well as the ‘carrot’ element, by ensuring that consumers are directed to legal sites to access material.
Rights holders, including the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI) and the PRS for Music, have spoken out about the role of search engines and have called for Google to implement initiatives that include the prioritising of search results that are based on their legality and the removal of autocomplete suggestions that are interlinked with piracy.
IP Adviser Mike Weatherley MP said: “Search Engines can – and must – use the resources available to them in order to safeguard the UK’s creative industries. 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 IP rights protection.”
To read the report, click here.