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Google, MS agree to crack down on online content piracy site

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NEW DELHI: A global war on content piracy, including in India, just got a leg up. For the first time, global tech giants Google and Microsoft have agreed to tighten up their search engines as part of a crackdown on content piracy websites illegally streaming events and films with the UK regulator Ofcom backing it.

Google and Microsoft's search engine Bing have signed up to a voluntary code of practice and will ensure offending websites are demoted in their search results, according to a PTI report from London, which goes on to state that he 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, which includes initiatives by PIPCU or the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU), which is a specialist national police unit dedicated to protecting the UK industries that produce legitimate, high quality, physical goods and online and digital content from intellectual property crime.

PIPCU operationally independent and launched in September 2013 with £2.56million funding from the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the UK until June 2015, got additional funding from the IPO in October 2014 till 2017. The unit is dedicated to tackling serious and organized intellectual property crime (counterfeit and piracy) affecting physical and digital goods (with the exception of pharmaceutical goods) with a focus on offences committed using an online platform.

The PTI report, quoting BBC and dwelling on Google and MS moves, stated that 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.

Jo Johnson, the UK's minister for universities, science, research and innovation, was quoted in the report as saying that the search engines' "relationships with our world leading creative industries needs to be collaborative". He added: “It is essential that (consumers) are presented with links to legitimate websites and services, not provided with links to pirate sites."

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 was quoted by PTI as saying.

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.

Trade body Alliance for Intellectual Property director-general Eddy Leviten told the BBC, according to the PTI report, "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 auto-complete 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.

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