Following a Digital Economy Bill committee two weeks ago, we first learned that copyright holders and search engines were close to finalizing a voluntary anti-piracy code.
Following roundtable discussions chaired by the UK’s Intellectual Property Office, the parties worked hard to reach a deal that everyone could live with.
These kinds of discussions are not new. Similar talks have been ongoing for more than half a decade, but without success. However, this time the Government turned up the pressure to the maximum, threatening to force search engines into cooperation by law if consensus could not be reached.
This approach appears to have reached its goals, with the world’s first anti-piracy agreement between search engines and rightsholders being officially announced today. The deal is a partnership between Google, Microsoft’s Bing, and several organizations in the creative industry.
Under this new anti-piracy code, search engines will further optimize their algorithms and processes to demote pirated content in their search results. The aim is to make infringing content less visible and at a faster rate. At the same time, legal alternatives should be easier to find.
“This should start to trigger faster and more effective demotion – and delisting. That should also mean that legal content sources are better promoted and artists and creators better rewarded,” Eddy Leviten, Director General of the Alliance for Intellectual Property informs TorrentFreak.
The changes should take effect by June 1st and are targeted at the UK public. This means that search results may not be impacted to the same degree elsewhere.
The parties have also agreed to cooperate more closely and share data to optimize future anti-piracy strategies. This includes efforts to make sure that pirate search terms do not show up in autocomplete suggestions.
“Autocomplete is an area where it has been agreed we need to work – and it will need cooperation to look at what terms are delivering consumers to pirate content,” Leviten clarifies.
The news was made public by several creative industry players, but it’s expected the UK Government, which played an important role in facilitating the talks, will follow with an announcement later today.
The rightsholder groups are happy that an agreement was finally reached and hope that it will help to steer search engine users toward legal alternatives.
“Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties’ willingness to try to improve that situation,” says Stan McCoy, President & Managing Director of the Motion Picture Association EMEA.
While the agreement is a milestone, it’s also clearly a compromise. The measures announced today are not substantially new.
Google, for one, has been demoting pirate sites in search results for several years already and it previously banned various pirate terms from autocomplete. Under the anti-piracy code, these measures will be intensified.
More far-reaching demands from rightsholders, such as removing pirate sites from search results entirely or a takedown-staydown policy, are not part of the deal.
Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive of UK music group BPI, recognizes that the new partnership isn’t going to stop piracy entirely but hopes that it will help to improve the current situation.
“There is much work still to do to achieve this. The Code will not be a silver bullet fix, but 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.”
TorrentFreak also reached out to Google to hear their vision on the landmark agreement, but at the time of publication, the company hadn’t replied.