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U.K. Labels and Google Partner on Anti-Piracy Measure: Removing Links

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Search engines Google and Bing will step up their efforts to demote and restrict access to copyright infringing websites, following the agreement of a voluntary code of practice between rights holders and tech companies in the U.K.

Hailed as a world first initiative, the code will see the removal of links to unlicensed material and is intended to reduce the prominence of infringing content in search rankings, thereby promoting licensed music sites and services.

Effective immediate, the agreement follows a series of Government-chaired roundtables and has been signed by labels trade body the BPI, the Motion Picture Association and the Alliance for Intellectual Property, as well as search engines Google and Microsoft-owned Bing.

"Successful and dynamic online innovation requires an ecosystem that works for everyone -- users, technology companies, and artists and creators," commented BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor. He said that while the code of practice will not be a "silver bullet" fix "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."

"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," Taylor went on to say.  

In line with existing practice, rights holders will still be required to alert search engines to infringing content, but stakeholders hope that increased co-operation between parties will greatly improve the notice and takedown procedure, as well as enable new anti-piracy practices to be adopted. There will also be collaboration to improve auto-complete suggestions, which have historically led users to infringing search results.

According to research by the U.K. government's Intellectual Property Office, 78 million music tracks were accessed illegally between March and May 2016, while 20 percent of internet users participated in some form of illegal music activity online during the same period. The introduction of a code of practice is intended to quell the tide of illegal sites profiting off illegal content.

"Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties' willingness to try to improve that situation," said Stan McCoy, president and managing director, of the Motion Picture Association EMEA.

His words were echoed by Jo Dipple, chief executive of umbrella organization UK Music, who called the voluntary code of practice "the culmination of years of discussions between rights-holders and search engines. This is progress and all parties must work to ensure the code has effect."


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