Google, Microsoft agree to crackdown on piracy sites
For the first time, global tech giants Google and Microsoft have agreed to tighten up their search engines as part of a crackdown on piracy sites illegally streaming events and films.
Google and Bing, Microsoft's search engine, have signed up to a voluntary code of practice and will ensure offending websites are demoted in their search results.
The entertainment industry reached the agreement with the tech giants after talks brokered by the UK government.
The initiative will run in parallel with existing anti-piracy measures.
The code said to be the first of its kind in the world is expected to be in operation by the middle of this year, BBC reported.
Jo Johnson, the UK's minister for universities, science, research and innovation, said that the search engines' "relationships with our world leading creative industries needs to be collaborative".
"It is essential that (consumers) are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites," he said.
Google has indicated that the effort would provide a way to check that its existing anti-piracy efforts were effective, rather than committing it to adding new measures.
"Google has been an active partner for many years in the fight against piracy online. We remain committed to tackling this issue and look forward to further partnership with rights holders," a Google spokesperson said.
The UK's Intellectual Property Office (IPO) led the discussions, with the assistance of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Britain's communications watchdog, Ofcom, supported the talks by exploring techniques that could be used to ensure internet users avoid coming across illegal content.
Eddy Leviten, director general at trade body the Alliance for Intellectual Property, told the BBC: "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. It is about protecting people who use the internet, but also protecting the creators of that material too."
Besides demoting copyright infringing sites, search engine autocomplete functions, a time-saving feature that suggests what users may be looking for, are also expected to remove terms that may lead to pirated websites.
Compliance with the code will be monitored by the IPO over the next few months.