A ground-breaking new initiative targeting online piracy brings together the creative industries and leading search engines under a voluntary code of practice to tackle copyright infringing sites. The deal, brokered by the UK Intellectual Property Office, with the support of Ofcom and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will involve collaborative work to demote search results that link to illegal sites. There will be ongoing technical consultation and information sharing to improve the process and adapt to change.
While some individuals intend to access illegal sites, the code addresses a concern that many who are looking for legally available content will find themselves presented with copyright infringing material. Accessing infringing files through these sites can expose consumer devices to malware.
Founder signatories to the voluntary code number only four, with Google and Bing the only search engines. Although these are by far the largest, with Google alone amounting to some 87% of the UK search engine market, there are others (notably Yahoo!) and their participation would be welcome.
Geoff Taylor of the British Phonographic Industry welcomed the code:
“This initiative is a world-first. We are grateful for the support from UK Government both for this code and for the “Get It Right” campaign that encourages fans to support the artists they love. We look forward to working with Google, Microsoft and our partners across the creative industries to build a safer, better online environment for creators and fans.”
and UK IP minister Jo Johnson gave the deal his strong backing:
“Search engines play a vital role in helping consumers discover content online. Their relationship with our world leading creative industries needs to be collaborative. Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content. It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites.”
The code itself is not included with the announcement and so it is hard to judge how broad its impact will be, for example in influencing search results outside the UK.