Google is an important part of the puzzle
Mike Weatherly MP, Intellectual Property advisor to David Cameron, has written a report saying that search engines like Google must use their resources to help safeguard the UK's creative industries, putting forward a raft of measures that could go a long way putting a stop to piracy.
I can’t help but feel that he is right. Although Google waxes about its efforts to prevent the distribution of pirated material and the millions of URLs it removes from its indexes each month at the request of copyright holders, it’s difficult to see what impact, if any, this has had on piracy rates. Indeed, the BPI has found that in spite of changes to Google’s algorithms designed to make it harder for pirate sites to be found, the instances of copyright-infringing sites turning up in the top 10 search results fell only marginally from 63% in 2012 to 61% in 2013. Plainly, if you can’t find infringing content, you can’t download it.
Recent developments also show that it is absolutely within search engines ability to stop people gaining access to this material. Google’s compliance with the recent EU privacy ruling being called “right to be forgotten”, which allows users to de-list certain personal information from search results, shows that search engines have the capability to remove websites and information on their search rankings quickly and effectively. One has to ask why these search engines are not doing more to stop people gaining access to websites that have pirated material?
That being said, Google is only part of the puzzle. Search engines aren’t the cause of IP theft and people can and would still access infringing sites without with their assistance. Preventing IP theft means targeting the source: those actually running the sites.
We are seeing some good work being done in the UK in this regard. Although it was only founded in September last year, the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), has been instrumental in the fight against piracy, having orchestrated the take down of numerous infringing websites.
Stopping the illegal distribution of copyrighted material at source strikes me as a most effective approach to protecting Intellectual Property. Take the work that PIPCU has been doing to successfully close down sites that are peddling illegal and counterfeit content. The Unit is making significant progress in this regard, and we are therefore, like Mike Weatherley, keen to see the IPO extend funding to them on a long term basis.