MP proposals could force search engines to tackle piracy

MPs have proposed a new clause for the UK’s Digital Economy Bill which will add pressure on search engines to tackle piracy and remove copyright-infringing content.

The amendment, entitled ‘Power to provide for a code of practice related to copyright infringement’, has been proposed by a group of MPs including Kevin Brennan in a bid to make search engines submit to a ‘voluntary agreement’ with rightsholders.

Should they fail to reach agreement, the clause suggests that the government will be empowered to force one on them.

The proposal states: ‘The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a search engine to be required to adopt a code of practice concerning copyright infringement that complies with criteria specified in the regulations.’

‘The regulations may provide that if a search engine fails to adopt such a code of practice, any code of practice that is approved for the purposes of that search engine by the Secretary of State, or by a person designated by the Secretary of State, has effect as a code of practice adopted by the search engine.’

The clause would also allow the government to investigate and sanction search engines for failure to comply with the code.

The government first unveiled the Digital Economy Bill in July, which it said will make Britain’s digital economy ‘safer, fairer and more secure’.

The bill recommends that prison sentences for online piracy are toughened and brought into line with the current penalties available for physical infringement. It also includes measures designed to strengthen protections for citizens.

Last month, government called for public input into the bill, setting the closing date for 1 November.

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