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UK government strikes deal to limit pirated search results

Mon 20 Feb 2017

The UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) has facilitated a new deal, effective immediately, whereby Google and Bing will no longer prominently feature search results which lead to infringing sites and material.

Today’s announcement is something of a landmark for anti-piracy advocates, but does not signify that pirated results will be entirely unavailable, but guarantees they will not appear on the first page of results (assuming default pagination).

According to the release, creative industry representatives have worked with the IPO and ‘leading UK search engines’ to formulate a voluntary code of practice. The code was agreed on February 9th, with targets of reducing the visibility of pirated search results by mid-year.

However there is no evidence at the time of writing of any differentiation between results across IP-based search results; testing the search term for a ‘rip’ of a popular recent movie obtained the same results across VPN IDs from China, the UK, the U.S. and Hong Kong – in each case some or other link to a pirated torrent of the movie inn question appeared.

In all cases a Reddit post indicating the location of the ripped movie appeared prominently high. In the event that domain-level downgrading of pirated search results should become apparent, it may prove more difficult to address the issue in the case of large and open social networks such as Reddit, which are granted general domain-level credibility across search engines, according to the usual caveats of popularity and inbound links.

Jo Johnson, the UK’s Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, commented of the new agreement:

“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.”

Matt Hancock, Minister of State for Digital and Culture, added that the UK has a responsibility as a leader among digital nations to ensure that users have access to legitimate content online. “Pirate sites deprive artists and rights holders of hard-earned income and I’m delighted to see industry led solutions like this landmark agreement which will be instrumental in driving change.”

Signatories of the new agreement include Google, Bing, BPI and the Motion Picture Association (MPA). Other entities which have indicated agreement are ACG, the Association of Authors Agents, BASE, British Brands Group, BSA, FDA, PPA, Premier League, Publishers Association, PLS, UKIE, Entertainment Retailers Association and the Educational Recording Agency.


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