Google and Microsoft have signed up to a landmark voluntary agreement with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) which will see allegedly infringing content dropped from the first page of their respective search engines' results.
Announced by Minster of State Jo Johnson this week, the voluntary code of practice includes the signatures of Google, Microsoft's Bing search subsidiary, the British Phonographic Institute (BPI), and the Motion Picture Association. As part of the Alliance for IP, a fistful of other organisations are also part of the agreement, including the British Brands Group, the Premier League, and games group Ukie (formerly the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, and the European Leisure Software Producers Association prior to that).
The code of practice, which is voluntarily agreed upon by all parties and therefore not subject to the usual process of bills and laws, requires that signatory search engines agree to reduce the visibility of allegedly infringing content - including links to services providing said content, such as infamous Bittorrent tracker The Pirate Bay - on their platforms. In practice, this doesn't necessarily mean removing the content altogether, but does require that it isn't visible on the first page of results - even if the search term you're putting in is an exact match for an allegedly infringing site.
'Search engines play a vital role in helping consumers discover content online. Their relationship with our world leading creative industries needs to be collaborative. Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content,' claimed Johnson at the code's unveiling. 'It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites. I am very pleased that the search engines and representatives of the creative industries have agreed this Code. I look forward to this valuable collaboration benefiting both the UK's digital and creative sectors.'
'We are one of the world's leading digital nations, and we have a responsibility to make sure that consumers have easy access to legal content online. Pirate sites deprive artists and rights holders of hard-earned income and I'm delighted to see industry led solutions like this landmark agreement which will be instrumental in driving change,' added Minister of State for Digital and Culture Matt Hancock. 'As we build a more global Britain we want the UK to be the most innovative country to do business, and initiatives like this will ensure our creative and digital economies continue to thrive.'
The full list of signatories and member groups is: Google, Bing, BPI, and the Motion Picture Association as direct members; ACG, Association of Authors Agents, BASE, British Bands Group, BSA, FDA, PPA, Premier League, Publishers Association, PLS, Ukie, the Entertainment Retailers Association, and the Educational Recording Agency under the Alliance for IP umbrella.
Google and Microsoft have until June 1st to modify their search engines to fit in with the code of practice.