Google To Break Pirates Over Music Searches

UK government-hosted talks spanning two Parliaments have culminated in Google and Bing at last agreeing to tweak their search results in response to copyright-holders' concerns, thereby heading off threatened legislation on their conduct.

The code means Google, Bing and other search engines will demote illegal sites from the top search results, meaning that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.

Music groups have complained that despite a wealth of legal and free licensed music outlets, the search engines continue to promote unlicensed infringing sites, thus distorting the market. The Conservatives had already vowed, "to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst-offending sites" in page 42 of their 2015 Manifesto.

Recording industry trade group, the BPI today hailed a new voluntary code of practice for search engines with both of the giants have signed up to, the first tangible result from six years of government-backed discussions, as a landmark. The BPI has sent over 450 million infringement notices to Google and Bing since 2011.

BPI chief exec Geoff Taylor called it a "world first", but warned it "would not be a silver-bullet fix". The agreement does not yet include one of musicians' biggest beefs, which is Google's autocomplete providing pirate-friendly terms.

"The code will accelerate the demotion of illegal sites following notices from rights holders, and establishes ongoing technical consultation, increased co-operation and information sharing to develop and improve on the process. It will also enable new practices to be adopted where needed," said a BPI statement.

Recently, the government again threatened legislation if search engines do not come up with a working code.

Music groups cite research that search engines provide prominent promotion of unlicensed music, discouraging the legal market. The BPI says 74 per cent of pirate downloads begin with a search engine "as either a discovery or navigational tool in their initial viewing sessions on domains with infringing content".

Even Google has acknowledged its role, citing referrals from Google to infringing sites in double figures. Here's an example. Five of the first seven results offer unlicensed downloads, while the other two is Amazon.

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