Should Google walk the plank?

The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee produced a report warning of the dangerous effect that Google’s tolerance towards illegal downloads could have on Britain’s creative industries. John Whittingdale MP said creative industries including the film and music business were of “huge importance to our economy” and stressed that intellectual property rights should be “robustly enforced” in order to protect the market. The report stated that awareness of infringement issues should be raised to make the public conscious of the harmful influence that piracy can have on our society, and that this knowledge could be attained by instating an ‘intellectual property champion’ to spread the word.The report called for an increase of the maximum penalty for online intellectual property infringement from two years imprisonment to ten years.

Google have the power to filter search results and have worked with international law enforcement in the past to block child porn websites from the results. The committee believe that Google have “provided no coherent, responsible reason why it can’t do the same for illegal, pirated content. Copyright infringement is a serious crime that threatens our economic future.” The idle attitude that Google have adopted towards piracy has been met with concerns. Google retorted that it would be unacceptable to block or remove websites that hosted illegal content on the basis that the same source could also provide legal content. This excuse was met by the committee as ‘flimsy’ and unacceptable.

Last year communications regulator Ofcom proposed a ‘three strike’ system, where illegal downloaders would face two warnings and on the final caution copyright holders would be granted the ability to seek a court order exposing the infringer to start legal action. Ofcom plans to monitor file sharing websites and relay that information to internet service providers (ISPs) like Google, who would then, in theory, contact the offender and initiate the three strike system.

It remains to be seen whether Google will continue to be ‘matey’ with piracy websites, or whether they will captain the crusade on the attack on piracy…


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