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MP calls for cross-industry policing of the web

Google, banks and advertisers expected to help

Jeremy Hunt

UK Culture Secretary, Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt, MP

UK culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt MP, has called upon Google, banks, internet service providers (ISPs) and advertisers to be more proactive in the battle against unlawful activity online, and in particular the unlawful distribution of copyrighted material.

In a speech delivered to the Royal Television Society last night at Kings College, Cambridge, Mr Hunt called for a cross-media approach to regulation that includes the following measures:

  • A greater onus on search engines, such as Google and Bing, to remove unlawful websites from their search results
  • A greater onus on ISPs to take reasonable steps towards making it more difficult for illegal sites to be accessed
  • An increased responsibility on banks to remove their credit card payment facilities from illegal websites
  • An increased responsibility on advertisers to remove their ads from illegal websites.

Mr Hunt said: ‘We do not allow certain products to be sold in the shops on the High Street, nor do we allow shops to be set up purely to sell counterfeited products. Likewise we should be entitled to make it more difficult to access sites that are dedicated to the infringement of copyright’.

Google responded by claiming that its anti-piracy policies were adequate. Google told Which? that ‘Philosophically the internet should be as open as possible’, but that the company took measures to remove content flagged and considered inappropriate – a service that Google claims has recently been improved, and can be achieved within four hours. Google removed three million items from its services last year.

New laws expected to be passed in 2015

A new Communications Act is expected to be passed as law in 2015, and these measures are expected to feed into any changes in the law.

Dr Rob Reid, a senior policy advisor for Which?, said: ‘We know from our own research that consumers are often confused about what does and does not constitute copyright infringement, and therefore providing help and clarity in avoiding illegal material is a good thing.

‘However, there are important questions to be considered before asking multi-national companies to act as the police of the internet, not least, how do we ensure that the blocking of sites is not used in an anti-competitive way? We respect the right of copyright holders to protect their creative material, but we also believe that they could work harder to ensure that consumers have access to fairly priced, legal alternatives to illegally shared files.’

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