Search Engines Team Up with Film and Music Associations in the Fight against Piracy

Written by Briffa | March 3, 2017


Once upon a time you could only listen to the music on the CDs that you brought along for your car trip or on the radio and you could only watch films by buying (or even renting) a video or DVD. Internet downloads  and streaming have massively changed how we listen to music and watch films but the negative has been that it is easier than ever before to use a search engine to find a website to download a song or watch a film without the copyright owner’s permission.

On 9 February 2017, a voluntary code was agreed (and came into force immediately) between Google, Bing, the British Phonographic Industry (record labels’ association promoting British music), Motion Picture Association (Disney, 21st Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Bros) and certain members of the Alliance for Intellectual Property. The code aims to ensure that the signatories work together more and share information so that links to content that infringes copyright will be removed from the first page of internet search results. For example, once a copyright holder notifies Google or Bing about a website that is infringing its copyright the search engines will act to remove the website from the first page of search results. Therefore, those searching Google or Bing would be directed towards websites which are permitted to have copyrighted material rather than those that are not. The signatories will also work together on the suggestions that autocomplete makes to try to prevent autocomplete leading searchers to websites infringing copyright. The Code targets 1 June 2017 for websites that infringe copyright being less visible in search results.

The British Phonographic Industry’s press release included figures which demonstrate why this code was seen as necessary. For example, 74% of searchers used a search engine to find the websites that infringed copyright and malware can be found on 1/3 of piracy websites. Besides these factors, accessing copyrighted content illegally impacts those who worked hard in creating the works but receive less of a reward for this.

Legal Background

The owner of a copyright work has the exclusive right to do various acts (e.g. to copy the copyright work; communicate the copyright work to the public; make an adaptation of the copyright work) and it infringes the owner’s copyright to do any of these acts (or to authorise others to) without the copyright owner’s permission.  As an example, there are various different types of copyright present in a film (e.g. in the script, in the recording of the film, in the soundtrack). A person who downloads this film without the permission of the copyright owner would breach the owner’s copyright because he/she would be copying the work, which includes storing the work in any medium by electronic means.  If you would like advice or further information please do not hesitate to contact Briffa.

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