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UK Labels Have Now Sent Google 500 Million Anti-Piracy Removal Notices

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LONDON — Streaming may have returned the music industry back to growth, but new figures released by U.K. labels trade body BPI form a stark reminder that online piracy continues to eat into the livelihoods of artists, songwriters and rights holders on an industrial scale.

This past weekend, BPI submitted its 500 millionth removal notice to Google requesting the takedown of links to illegal music files on the internet.

To date, it has also sent 398 million removal notices to rival search engines Bing and Yahoo. The London-based organization expects to cross one billion URL submissions before the end of the year.

With many music fans finding illegal content through search engines and predominantly Google, BPI says its commitment to issuing takedown notices are helping to combat piracy.

In 2019, the trade body's actions led to the delisting of 314,000 titles by 55,000 artists represented by 13,000 labels from over 9,000 pirate sites. The majority of titles delisted were on behalf of independent labels.

In the first two months of this year, BPI delisted a further eight million URLs from Google, associated with 170,000 albums and tracks, on behalf of 31,000 artists and 9,000 labels.

BPI, which is the world's second-highest remover of content from Google, behind anti-piracy tech group Rivendell, estimates that illegal music sites cost the U.K. record music industry more than £150 million ($192 million) a year.

In total, over 4.5 billion infringing links have to date been removed from Google by all copyright holders globally, according to Google's Transparency Report.

"The fact the BPI has had to delist half a billion infringing music links from Google alone, on behalf of U.K. artists and labels, highlights the staggering scale of the problem of illegal sites, as well as BPI's unwavering commitment to fighting for the rights of artists and their record labels," said BPI chief executive Geoff Taylor.

He called for online platforms and intermediaries such as advertising networks, brands, payment providers and hosting ISPs to "urgently take on greater responsibility to combat illegal content" and "avoid profiteering from piracy."

"For too long we have accepted a reactive approach that places all the burden on creators to search for and police hundreds of millions of infringements of their rights across the entire internet," said Taylor. "That approach cannot succeed."

The removal notices sent by the BPI are targeted at all types of illegal sites, including P2P torrent sites, mp3 aggregators, cyberlockers and stream rippers.

In 2017, Google and Microsoft-owned Bing signed up to a U.K. government-brokered voluntary code of practice to demote illegal sites from search results. BPI credits the initiative with ensuring that legal, licensed music sites appear more prominently in online searches, helping boost the once-again thriving record industry.

BPI is now working alongside government officials to try and persuade social media companies and online marketplaces to introduce similar measures.

News of the organisation's 500 millionth removal notice comes one week after IFPI and German music association Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI) filed a legal injunction against one of Europe's leading "fake stream" sites, ordering it to close.

The order was filed against Germany-based Followerschmiede.de in the Berlin District Court as part of a broader industry-wide campaign against stream manipulation sites, which offer customers the chance to pay for "fake plays" on streaming services like Spotify and YouTube to falsely boost an act's popularity and potentially inflate its chart position and royalty payments.


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