A group of content owners that includes the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), Motion Picture Association (MPA), Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television (PACT), The Premier League and the Publishers Association have said that Internet search engines that operate in the UK could stop publishing links to websites that are deemed to be substantially infringing copyright under plans. The groups have proposed a voluntary code of practice for search engines in a move to get them to do more to prevent online copyright infringement. If adopted, the code would also require search engines to relegate sites that repeatedly link to pirated material in their rankings and conversely boost links to other “licensed” sites under a new “certification” scheme suggesting search engines should prioritise legal sites when consumers are clearly using search engines “trying to access digital content to download or stream, rather than simply looking for information” using search terms such as ‘torrent’, ‘download’, ‘free’ and ‘rip’ when eg combined with an artiste, song or an album name. The content owners would also like to see search engines stop promoting pirate websites or placing ads on those sites from selling keyword advertising related to piracy terminology as well as banning mobile apps that help facilitate infringement. The proposals also say that search engines should stop indexing websites that are subject to court orders, while establishing suitable procedures to de-index substantially infringing sites and continue to improve the operation of the ‘notice and takedown’ system and ensure that search engines do not encourage consumers towards illegal sites via suggested searches, related searches and suggested sites.
The proposals have been described as “dangerous” by digital freedoms campaigners the Open Rights Group.
A copy of the letter which was sent to the UK Government as part of the consultation between rights holders, internet companies and other stakeholders in a bid to establish self-regulatory regimes for tackling online piracy was obtained by the Open Rights Group under the Freedom of Information Act and can be found here