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New 'Code of Conduct' proposed to tackle piracy.

Written by Claire Welling on 20 February 2012

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New draft guidelines proposed

Under new draft guidelines search engines could "de-rank...sites that persistently make available unlicensed content in breach of copyright". The 'Proposal for a Code of Practice' obtained by campaigners, the Open Rights Group, under freedom of information laws, suggests new methods to tackle online piracy, which has been prompted following activity surrounding the Digital Economy Act 2010.

The document, drafted by a group including British Recorded Music Industry, Motion Pictures Association, Producers Alliance for Cinema and Television, The Premier League, and the Publishers Association, and which outlines possible actions "which would have a significant impact in helping to grow the UK digital economy act ensuring that consumers are not drawn into illegal behaviour online."

It claims that consumers are currently "swamped" in search results to illegal sites, and that in these situations consumers "may not always know for certain which are legitimate and which are not". According to their statistics, "23% of UK consumers regularly download music illegally using Google as their means to find the content", with an average of "16 of the first 20 Google results for chart singles and 15 of the top 20 search results for chart albums linked to known illegal sites".

The document describes intermediaries such as search engines, internet advertising networks, online payment services, and domain registries, who "unwittingly or by turning a blind eye (or in some cases, by encouraging such activity), play a key role in enabling content theft and often even profit from it".

Proposals outline key methods for these intermediaries to promote and create "an environment that supports and promotes legality" by adopting responsible practices and procedures":

i. "De-ranking sites that persistently make available unlicensed content in breach of copyright"

ii. "Prioritising legal sites in searches for content"

iii. "Making the existing process work better"

For the music industry key search term prioritisation should be implemented, such as "mp3", "flac", "wma", "aac", "torrent", "downloa"", "rip", "stream" or "listen", "free", so that when combined with an artist name, song or album title it be compared against a list, "to be regularly updated and provided to a search engine by a recognised and properly mandated agency representing rights holders for a particular sector, such as BPI".

Other proposals include the removal of links and indexing to sites found to be "substantially infringing" by courts; removal of advertising from substantially infringing sites and the prevention of re-registration; improvement of complaints procedures for notification of infringing sites by a third party. This is continued in suggestions relating to operations as an application platform for Android devices.

For more information see <http://www.openrightsgroup.org/assets/files/pdfs/proposals%20to%20search%20engines.pdf>
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