UK’s MP Mike Weatherley Urges Search Engines to Take More Responsibility for Curbing Piracy

May 29, 2014

The discussion paper issued today by Mike Weatherley, Intellectual Property Adviser to Prime Minister David Cameron, underlines the need for search engines to shoulder their responsibility in tackling online copyright infringement and ensuring a safe, responsible online environment.

I have always maintained that in today’s world, search engines have become a virtual education system; a tool in the everyday life of consumers.  It is only right that they should be held accountable for linking consumers to illegal content.

France has already taken the approach that search engines are required to have a greater involvement in the fight against online piracy.  In November 2013, the Paris Regional Court ordered search engines to de-index 16 copyright infringing sites.

Search engines should address the distortive search practices that result in listings and rankings that favor substantially infringing sites.  Otherwise consumers are left with little real choice and are confused because they presume that search engines direct them to legal sites.  Last year, the MPAA released a study which found that search engines play a significant role in introducing audiences to infringing movies and TV shows online.  74% of consumers surveyed in the study cited using a search engine as a discovery or navigation tool in their initial viewing sessions on sites with infringing content.  And that is not acceptable.

All of us in the Internet ecosystem share a responsibility to take meaningful steps to curb copyright infringement online.  The prominence of these illegal sites in search listings makes it more difficult for the growing number of legal content services online to compete on a level playing field. Today’s report makes clear that, as the dominant market leader, Google should take a leading role in addressing this problem and thereby pave the way toward a more responsible Internet – if they do, other search engines will follow.  No one is suggesting that Google alone can make the Internet a more responsible environment, but their influential role in the online ecosystem means they share an obligation to be good actors.  I truly hope that this discussion paper prompts them to adopt a more proactive and constructive approach.