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Google and Microsoft agree crackdown on piracy sites in search results

Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines.

In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. Under the "code of practice", Bing and Google have agreed to remove links to infringing content from the first page of results.

The voluntary agreement was brokered by the U.K. Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the government department that deals with patents and copyright issues, who called it a "landmark" deal.

A visitor uses a cell phone in the Google offices in Berlin, Germany.
Adam Berry | Getty Images
A visitor uses a cell phone in the Google offices in Berlin, Germany.

Search engines, in particular Google, have clashed in recent times with organizations that represent rights holders about how best to tackle pirated content. Even Google's YouTube has come under fire from the music industry over copyright in the past.

"Consumers are increasingly heading online for music, films, e-books, and a wide variety of other content. It is essential that they are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites," Jo Johnson, U.K. minister of state for universities, science, research and innovation, said in a press release on Monday.

The BPI (British Phonographic Industry), which represents the U.K.'s recorded music industry, and the Motion Picture Association are also part of the agreement.

Both Bing and Google currently allow copyright owners across the globe to make a request for the removal of a link. In the past 12 months, Google has taken down 915 million links following requests from copyright holders. Bing took down over 91 million links between January and June 2016, according to a Microsoft transparency report.

The code was agreed on February 9 and will come into force immediately. It sets targets for reducing the visibility of infringing content in search results by June 1, 2017.