Weatherley Wants More From Google

UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s intellectual property adviser says Google isn’t doing enough to curb online piracy.
Tory MP Mike Weatherley speaks about Google’s role in preventing piracy at The Great Escape conference in Brighton, which ran May 8-10.

Mike Weatherley MP, who’s also co-head of the all-party parliamentary group looking at secondary ticketing, says all search engines need to do more to curb the piracy costing the UK music and film businesses about £400 million ($670 million) a year.

At this year’s The Great Escape in Brighton (May 8-10), the MP for the neighbouring constituency of Hove and Portslade told delegates he was working on a paper on how Google should play in policing online piracy.

He also revealed that at the time he wasn’t comfortable asking Google to be the Internet’s policemen. “It is not them who are distributing the illegal content – but they do have a role to play in directing people to legal sites and should be part of the informing and educating agenda,” he said.

He’s drawn up a list of recommendations for business secretary Vince Cable, including blocking the online ad funding that supports pirate websites.

“Search engines can – and must – use the resources available to them in order to safeguard the UK’s creative industries,” he said. “Piracy remains the biggest threat to the growth of digital commerce. If we want the UK to continue to be a leader in creativity and innovation, the UK must also be an international leader of intellectual property rights protection.”

However, he also said that “no one single player” is capable of solving the piracy problem, and it is “inaccurate, unrealistic and a diversion” to focus on Google and search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing and Yahoo as the only solution. He says search engines should also work with rights holders to establish a system whereby pirate sites are removed from search results if a court order has been issued to the UK’s main internet companies telling them to block access.

Weatherley’s new – and tougher – approach has already won the support of the British Phonographic Industry.

“Other online intermediaries, such as advertisers and payment providers, have taken voluntary action to counter the growth of the online black market,” said BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor. “Google, which dominates UK search, has paid lip service to the issue but in practice has done little to address the ethical loophole in its algorithm, which directs millions of consumers to sites it clearly knows to be illegal.”

A Google spokesman defended its practices, saying it invests millions in anti-piracy measures.

“Google is committed to tackling piracy and our action is industry leading,” he said. “We invest tens of millions of pounds in technology to tackle piracy and last month alone we removed more than 23 million links to infringing content.”