UK Govt Targets Google and Facebook in Piracy Crackdown

The UK Intellectual Property Office is investigating how search engines and social media networks can step up their game to deter piracy. The Government is pushing for voluntary anti-piracy agreements between major Internet companies and entertainment industry groups, but will consider a legislative approach if these fail.

uk-flagLast week the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) published its strategy for tackling copyright infringement over the next four years.

Among other things, the government said that it would work with search engines and social media platforms to reduce the availability of infringing content on their services.

However, new information just made available suggests that this cooperation may not take place on entirely voluntary basis.

In fact, the Government is considering the introduction of updated anti-piracy legislation if the measures taken by Google, Microsoft, Facebook and other tech stakeholders prove insufficient.

Civil servants at the IPO have started to collect evidence for ministers to document potential gaps in current legislation which need to be addressed, The Times reports today.

According to Ros Lynch, director of copyright and enforcement at the IPO, not all tech companies are doing as much as they should.

“A number of companies do have procedures in place and they are taking some action. I’m not saying they’ve been wholly effective. Some are not doing as much as they could,” Lynch says.

In recent months the UK Government has hosted talks with tech companies and entertainment industry players, hoping to reach voluntary agreements. Thus far these meetings have been without result.

Google, one of the primary targets of the movie and music industry companies, maintains that the current takedown system is both effective and efficient enough to deal with infringing content.

However, UK music group BPI would like to see a more pro-active anti-piracy stance from various intermediaries. Search engines, for example, should make sure that content doesn’t re-appear under a new URL once it’s been removed.

“This damaging situation can only be remedied by Google themselves changing strategy and proactively pursuing a ‘notice and stay down’ approach, so that once a piece of content has been notified for removal by the BPI, it isn’t indexed again for the same site and stays removed,” the BPI noted previously.

How UK law could be amended to address these concerns is unclear, but the major search engines and social networks are likely to push back hard against more restrictive policies.

This is not the first time that the UK Government has warned major Internet companies over their lacking anti-piracy policies. Former UK Culture Secretary Sajid Javid issued a similar “legislative” threat two years ago, without much effect.

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