“Urgent reform” needed to notice and takedown as removal of 200 millionth illegal search result from Google approaches

London, 24th March 2016 – for immediate release:  The BPI, the record labels’ organisation which promotes British music, has spearheaded a major drive in recent years to support the growth of the legal music market by disrupting the activities of illegal music sites. 

Concerted efforts by the wider music community to build a healthy digital market have been held back by search engines and other intermediaries continuing to direct users and revenues towards sites that defraud artists and labels.  The BPI has repeatedly called on Google and others to do more to ensure that consumers searching for recorded music are referred to legal services in preference to illegal sites, many of which pose risks from viruses, trojans or other harmful or inappropriate content.

As part of a range of measures to protect its members’ content1, the BPI notifies Google and others whenever its automated content protection system identifies links in search results that point to illegal copies of music, and requests these are taken down.  This weekend will see the BPI pass the milestone of 200 million infringing URLs sent to Google for removal from search results since its first notice in July 2011. 

This high-volume take-down helps to limit the amount of illegal content being promoted, giving legal music services such as Amazon, Apple, Spotify and Deezer a better chance of appearing at the top of search results when fans are looking for music online2.  While this approach has contributed to some improved visibility of legal services, illegal results that are taken down by Google are frequently replaced by other illegal links, which means that legal services continue to be overshadowed by infringing sites in the very top search results.  This damaging situation can only be remedied by Google themselves changing strategy and pro-actively pursuing a “notice and stay down” approach, so that once a piece of content has been notified for removal by the BPI, it isn’t indexed again for the same site and stays removed. 

The Government has set up a round table to try to reach voluntary agreement to fulfil its manifesto commitment to “work to ensure that search engines do not link to the worst offending sites”.  The BPI has called for a series of measures as part of that process:  A lower threshold for the number of notices required to de-rank an illegal site and transparency over that threshold; improved discoverability of genuine sites to help consumers towards legal content; automatic de-listing of sites that have been ruled illegal by the High Court; action to prevent illegal sites avoiding demotion by swapping domain; and “notice and stay down” – once a piece of content has been notified for removal, it should not be indexed again for the same site. 

Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards, comments: The BPI believes that people who make music or other entertainment deserve to be rewarded for their work and creativity. Only when consumers support legitimate sites can labels, studios and broadcasters consistently invest in the best talent to make high quality entertainment we can all enjoy.  

“The notice and take-down system, as currently structured, cannot represent an effective response to piracy and requires urgent reform. Internet intermediaries like search engines clearly need to take more active responsibility to stop directing business to the black market.

“We are calling on Google and Bing to show their undiluted commitment to artists and the creative process by implementing a more pro-active solution to illegal sites appearing in search results. This will avoid the cost for both of us in dealing with hundreds of repeated notices for the same content on the same illegal sites”.   




Gennaro Castaldo            gennaro.castaldo@bpi.co.uk                      020 7803 1326 / 07801 194 139

Notes to Editors

The BPI’s content protection work

1Alongside its programme of take-down notices to Google and other search engines, the BPI has obtained court orders requiring Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block UK access to 63 websites offering infringing content as well as hundreds of proxy sites.  The BPI also works with The City of London Police’s PIPCU operation (Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit) and with advertisers and financial services to choke off the revenues on which illegal sites feed, and is a partner in the Creative Content UK Get It Right From A Genuine Site awareness campaign, which aims to encourage consumers to value content and to source it from legal sites.     

The importance of Search - research

2Research data consistently shows that search placement plays an important role in determining where consumers go to acquire music and other entertainment.  A 2014 study by the Technology Policy Institute highlighted that “changing the prominence of pirate and legal links has a strong impact on user choices: users are more likely to consume legally (and less likely to infringe copyright) when legal content is more prominent in search results”.  The study also found that users whose initial search terms indicate an intention to consume pirated content are more likely to use legal channels when pirated content is harder to find in search results.  https://techpolicyinstitute.org/2014/09/15/search-impact-on-piracy/               

About The BPI

The BPI was formed in 1973 and is a representative voice of the UK recorded music business.  It promotes recorded music in the UK and worldwide and champions the rights of the music community.  Its membership is made up of hundreds of independent music labels and the UK’s three major record companies, which collectively account for around 85 per cent of the recorded music consumed in the UK – the world’s fourth largest music market.

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