Bing and Google to demote pirate websites from search results in the UK

The United Kingdom’s Intellectual Property Office, along with representatives from Google, Bing, and the several creative industries have managed to come together and develop a ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’ that might affect how people within the complicated borders of the UK search for their pirated content.

Google, Bing, the Motion Picture Association, and the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) have already signed into the new guidelines, but its effects will only start showing up this summer.

The Code

The ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’ introduces a few guidelines that would, in short, compel Bing and Google to demote certain search results down, removing them from the first page of search results.

From the perspective of a pirate, this is better than removing these links entirely – something that the DMCA takedown notices already do; from the viewpoint of an intellectual property holder, this won’t help fight the regular pirates but will contribute to moving the amateur pirates onto the legal side. Google and Bing – the search engines – are merely demoting links rather than removing them, and hence are merely compromising.

It’s essentially an agreement on the middle ground. Since it’s a voluntary agreement, other search engines like DuckDuckGo won’t even have to abide by it.

“Sometimes people will search for something and they will end up unwittingly being taken to a pirated piece of content. What we want to ensure is that the results at the top of the search engines are the genuine ones,” Eddy Leviten, the Director General at the Alliance for Intellectual Property said in a statement.

Moving piracy-related links off the first page of a search result will also have the added benefit of bringing legal ways to get the same content on the first page. It’s purely coincidental, but it works in favor of this new agreement.

The Transparency

While the ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’ is in effect, it’s implementation will still take some time; the code sets the target on 1st June 2017.

Jo Johnson, the UK’s Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research, and Innovation, will oversee the implementation of this agreement and will work with all the involved parties to evaluate its progress.

There’s an issue, though: the Alliance for Intellectual Property is yet to reveal the guidelines present in this ‘Voluntary Code of Practice’ to the public. That’s certainly not good – especially now that the guidelines are already in effect.

Outside the UK

It’s not yet clear whether Microsoft and Google plan to apply these guidelines outside of the UK. Bing and Google have both voluntarily signed onto this agreement, indicating that they are willing to take a stand against piracy.

If success in the UK, the two search giants could then roll out the same policy – voluntarily – across the world. They might even be forced to do so in other parts of the world since they are already doing it in the UK.

If you wish to read more about the Voluntary Code of Practice, here are the statements by UK’s Intellectual Property Office and the British Phonographic Industry.

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