Google must stop letting pirates aboard the “HMS Creative Industry”

Google is facing widespread criticism in the UK today for its “derisory” attempts to curb music and film piracy.

The UK Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has urged Ministers to reinforce planned copyright laws with tougher sanctions against music and film pirates. As an organisation with a long-standing commitment to the protection of IPR and many members for whom this is a crucial issue, ICOMP welcomes this development.

The Committee bemoaned the cost of piracy which robs the creative industries in the UK alone of some £400m per year and reserved its harshest criticism for Google, accusing the search giant of “offering the thinnest excuses to avoid taking action against widespread piracy”. The Committee’s chairman John Whittingdale described Google’s excuse that some of the infringing sites may also host legitimate content as “flimsy”. He went on to say that “the continuing promotion of illegal content through search engines is simply unacceptable, and efforts to stop it so far have been derisory.”

Industry stakeholders have been swift to support the Committee’s criticism of the Google as the party from whom (as the world’s dominant search engine) far more action should be forthcoming to limit access to piracy websites.

Richard Mollet, chief executive of the Publishers Association, said: “The committee’s critique of Google’s policies as ‘derisively ineffective’ is bang on the mark. Publishers and authors should not have to tolerate seeing infringement of their works tolerated by the country’s leading search engine.”

UK Music’s CEO Jo Dipple commented: “Google has to stop feeding up unlicensed free content. Google has to start acknowledging the responsibility it has to consumers it serves.”

The BPI’s chief executive, Geoff Taylor echoed these sentiments, saying: “we also agree with the unequivocal finding that Google should end its practice of listing known illegal sites prominently in the search results, a key driver of online piracy. Both consumers and the digital economy will be better off if fans looking for music and other content are directed to the many great services that offer it legally.”

Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger has also raised questions about the intimacy of Google’s relationship with the Prime Minister, commenting: “I am very aware of [Google’s] power, put it that way. I am also very aware, I think, that they have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No 10, I understand.”

The fact that Google controls over 90 per cent of the search market across Europe means that it has, by default and by far, the biggest obligation to reduce blatant signposting of pirated content. The fact that it has consistently failed effectively to do so, preferring instead to make advertising revenue from these sites that profit  at the expense of the creative industry, could be seen to be little more than modern-day profiteering.

ICOMP wholeheartedly supports The Committee’s calls for tougher sanctions on pirates and for Google to stop letting them aboard.