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MPs: Google blocks child abuse images, it should block piracy too

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By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 26 Sep 2013 at 12:45

If Google can block child abuse images, it can also block piracy sites, according to a report from MPs.

MPs said they were "unimpressed" by Google's "derisorily ineffective" efforts to battle online piracy, according to a Commons Select Committee report looking into protecting creative industries.

The report said that proposals in the Hargreaves review to introduce copyright exceptions, and the failure to roll out the Digital Economy Act were risking the "livelihoods of the individuals and industries" that create content.

However, the strongest condemnation was for Google, which was criticised for not doing a better job of filtering out piracy sites from search results.

"We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites," the report said. "We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content."

"The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable," it added. "So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective."

The report said it wasn't "beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright infringing material from search engine results".

Indeed, John Whittingdale MP, the chair of the Committee - and also a non-executive director at Audio Network, an online music catalogue - noted that Google manages to remove other illegal content. "Google and others already work with international law enforcement to block for example child porn from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible reason why it can't do the same for illegal, pirated content," he said.

Google disagreed that it wasn't doing enough. "We removed more than 20 million links to pirated content from our search results in the last month alone," a spokesperson said. "But search is not the problem - according to Ofcom just 8% of infringers in the UK use Google to find unlicensed film and 13% to find unlicensed music. Google works harder than anyone to help the film and music industry protect their content online."

Call for changes

The MPs' report called for a "powerful champion of IP" within government, suggesting that should be the role of the Intellectual Property Office, but that body is "too often seen as wishing to dilute copyright rather than defend and enforce it".

As well, the MPs want the IPO to include more research into online piracy in its annual report and to examine how search engines "facilitate" it, and for the maximum penalty for serious online copyright theft to be increased to ten years.

The roll out of the controversial and delayed Digital Economy Act should be accelerated, the MPs said, especially the sections requiring ISPs to send warning letters to customers seen to be downloading content illegally.

The report also disagreed with the widely well-received Hargreaves review into intellectual property - even disagreeing with its advice to allow "private copying", such as ripping from CDs. The Committee report said such activity is not "factored into the purchase either of music or devices that store, play or copy it".

Other options

The MPs' report also takes a swipe at digital activists the Open Rights Group (ORG). "While we share the Open Rights Group’s attachment to freedom of expression via the internet, we firmly repudiate their laissez-faire attitudes towards copyright infringement," the report said.

The report seems to be quite a car crash, ignoring evidence when it doesn't suit, and relying on anecdotes when it does

However, ORG director Jim Killock said the report was flawed. "The report seems to be quite a car crash, ignoring evidence when it doesn't suit, and relying on anecdotes when it does," he told PC Pro. "It is tremendously one-sided, given the breadth and importance of these issues to the whole of industry and society, well beyond the perspective of music and film lobby groups, objecting to simple things like legalising transfer of MP3s to iPods."

Indeed, the report quotes industry figures suggesting online piracy of film and music costs £400 million annually, and that 35% of movie watched online are downloaded illegally.

"These industry figures were questioned by the Open Rights Group, and Viscount Younger of Leckie stated they were not based on exact science," the report admitted. "Such quibbles in our view, however, should not detract from the existential threat that online piracy clearly poses to the creative economy."

Killock suggested the MPs had themselves missed the wider picture. "They seem to have missed the real story, which is that industry has succeeded with new services like Netflix and Lovefilm by making more flexible, consumer friendly deals, like showing Breaking Bad at nearly the same time as the in USA," he said.

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User comments

The slippery slope ...

And of course, if it can block child abuse images and piracy, why not information that violates UK court orders, or offends Claire Perry's idea of what a five-year-old should see?

And, of course all the other countries will want their court orders and censorship sensitivities blocked too. How much of the internet will remain when anything anyone objects to is blocked?

By JohnAHind on 26 Sep 2013

Rolling down that slope

Still shows we're catching up with China on censorship if not the economy.

By NickN on 26 Sep 2013

An important point, NickN

And one well worth repeating.

By qpw3141 on 26 Sep 2013

Because the DMCA process is bad enough as it is, that's why.

There have been several cases now of the DMCA being done badly (e.g. 'accidental' requests for items which have nothing to do with the company filing the request) or worse abused for censorship (e.g. blocking a bad review).

By tech3475 on 26 Sep 2013

The evil Chinese...

We are told how the "evil" Chinese censor their internet and how wrong that it. We then censor our own internet, but "for the good of the people". Would anyone like to bet what impact Google blocking piracy sites would have on online piracy? I'd imagine it will make no difference whatsoever. People will just change their habits, much as they did when Piratebay was blocked.

By Deadly on 26 Sep 2013

If it's true

that chair of the committee John Whittingdale MP is also a non-executive director at online music catalogue Audio Network is it any surprise that he promotes the myths of copyright maths?

By revsorg on 26 Sep 2013

No-one uses Google to find torrents and the like. Blocking them from Google will have little impact.

By AlphaGeeK on 26 Sep 2013

How delightful to see Mr Whittingdale - who is hardly impartial on the matter - and his friends telling everyone just how the Internet should be.

I take it the views of OfCom (and those of others) whose reports have demonstrated that 'pirates' actually buy more content were also ignored?

Yet again our MPs prove that common sense is the rarest sense of all.

By Mr_Flynn on 26 Sep 2013


The industry doesn't help itself, forcing you to watch anti-pirate adverts on a DVD you bought (I know because I buy them) and occasional unskipable trailers.

on others matters: do you think Google Glass will do enough to block free will.

By PhilGQ on 26 Sep 2013


You may enjoy this:

This is one of the many problems with legal options at the moment.

By tech3475 on 26 Sep 2013


I did enjoy that, its exactly what I meant. I had forgot the FBI bit and ending up in penitentiary though especially pointless on region 2 disk.

By PhilGQ on 26 Sep 2013


One thing I've just remembered, there is one trick on some DVDs where if you select Australia you can actually bypass all that rubbish.

By tech3475 on 26 Sep 2013


Nice tip, I'll remember that.

P.S. just looked back at your link the THX FFFFUUUU! is particularly amusing

By PhilGQ on 26 Sep 2013

There's a good reason why it shouldn't...

And that's the simple fact that Google is a global company and copyright law is a national construct (albeit with many cross-border agreements). So there are a number of works that can be public domain in one jurisdiction that are still under copyright in another.

I don't think the comparison with child-abuse images is appropriate either. Possession and deliberate viewing of such images is a criminal offence and they are always evidence of another more serious criminal offence (the rape of a child). The criteria by which they are blocked by Google (and other internet services) is well established and understood. There is not much room for dispute about whether an image should be blocked or not. More to the point, the bodies that exist to police their blocking are independent and neutral players (ie neither representing internet services nor the accused). In the case of copyright there are significant grey areas and the bodies involved are highly partisan and frequently wrong.

By stuarthamlin on 26 Sep 2013

Oh look, MPs uncritically parroting information they've been sent by the corporate lobbyists.

By Mark_Thompson on 26 Sep 2013

I recently had a copyright claim over the soundtrack I'd used on a Youtube video. Turns out the band they claimed had copyright had used a backing track from the same (royalty free) resource as me. Cheeky monkeys.

By Mark_Thompson on 26 Sep 2013

So shoplifting is the same as molestation

So they are now saying that the equivalent of shoplifting a DVD from a store is on the same moral level as someone who molests a child, takes pictures and videos of the act, and posts them on the internet for all and sundry.

This alone shows just how mentally deficient these people are. I don't know whether to be more disgusted at the apparant minimisation of child molestation or the apparant elevation of shoplifting. Either is to puke.

By blackpoisonsoul on 26 Sep 2013

I have a 3D printer, so I WOULD download a car!

But if I print it, build it and download it with my own time and materials and don't sell it to anyone else, am I a thief as the anti-piracy averts would all imply?

Simple answer: no.

This MP is either a moron or a puppet. Or both.

By cheysuli on 27 Sep 2013

If Googly aren't fulfilling their legal obligations regarding search results containing 'piracy' information, then fine them.
Google are complying with the law, so maybe this chap is claiming that Google also have a moral responsibility to demote 'piracy' search results.
Maybe they do, maybe they don't.
Maybe they have a moral responsibility to promote search results relating to MP sleaze stories too.

By synaptic_fire on 27 Sep 2013

Value for money

Well, Whittington needs to show something for £250 'per hour' he charged Audio Network plc for his 32 hours effort last year!

By ElDiabloJuanCarlos on 27 Sep 2013

Value for money

Well, Whittington needs to show something for £250 'per hour' he charged Audio Network plc for his 32 hours effort last year!

By ElDiabloJuanCarlos on 27 Sep 2013

Am I missing something?

"If Google can block child abuse images..."

How about simply STOPPING the images getting onto the web in the first place? There should be nothing there to block and the moment they DO appear the correct action should be taken to remove said pictures.

By rhythm on 28 Sep 2013

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