UK Urges Online Intermediaries to Tackle Piracy, Or Else

In its newly released "Industrial Strategy" plan the UK government remains committed to protecting copyright holders. In addition to funding copyright education efforts, it will help to broker voluntary anti-piracy agreements between online services and copyright holders. If these efforts have produced no results by the end of the year, laws may be strengthened.

In recent years the UK Government has been very proactive when it comes to intellectual property enforcement, supporting a broad range of anti-piracy initiatives.

The authorities have also pushed for cooperation between copyright holders and online intermediaries. Last year, this resulted in a ‘landmark’ agreement between the creative industries and search engines, to tackle online piracy.

In a new Industrial Strategy White Paper released this week the Government highlights this deal as a great success. However, it was only the start. More is needed to properly address the piracy problem.

“Online piracy continues to be a serious inhibitor to growth in the creative industries. Technologies like stream ripping and illicit streaming devices enable illegitimate access to content without rewarding its creators.

“Many rights holders are also concerned about how their works are exploited online, especially where they are used without generating substantial returns for content creators,” the Government adds.

The report outlines a broad strategy on how the Government and the creative industries can work together. This includes financial support but also concrete interventions regarding online intermediaries.

As with the search engines before, the Government plans to host a series of roundtables with copyright holders, social media companies, user upload platforms, digital advertising outfits, and online marketplaces. The goal of these meetings is to broker voluntary anti-piracy agreements.

The roundtables will be used to identify any significant piracy problems and develop ‘voluntary’ codes of practice to address these, including upload filters.

“These measures could include proactive steps to detect and remove illegal content, improving the effectiveness of notice and takedown arrangements, reducing incentives for illegal sites to engage in infringement online and reducing the burdens on rights holders in relation to protecting their content,” the Government writes.

While the envisioned codes of conduct are voluntary, the Government notes that if these roundtables fail to produce the desired outcome, new legislation may be put in place.

“[If this] fails to result in the agreement of an effective code by 31 December 2018, government will consider further legislative action to strengthen the UK copyright framework to ensure that the identified problems are addressed.”

This type of warning is not new. The UK Government used similar language when it tried to convince search engines to reach a voluntary anti-piracy agreement with copyright holders. This eventually paid off.

In addition to brokering voluntary codes, the UK Government says it will also continue to address the so-called “value gap” in both the UK and Europe.

At the same time, the Government also renewed its support for the ‘Get it Right’ campaign. It will make an additional £2 million available which, among other things, will be used to educate consumers on the dangers of copyright infringement and warn pirating subscribers.

The UK Government hopes that these and other incentives will eventually help the creative industry to flourish, so it created new jobs and benefit the UK economy as a whole.

“Together we can build on the UK’s position as a global leader and strengthen its advantage as a creative nation by increasing the number of opportunities and jobs in the creative industries across the country, improving their productivity, and enabling us to greatly expand our trading ambitions abroad.”

A copy of the white paper “Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future” is available here.

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