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Labour targets Tories' Google problem

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Labour has chastised the Conservatives for digital economy policies - and is targeting what may be the Conservatives' closeness to Google.

In addition to calling for more innovation from the entertainment industries, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman called for greater corporate social responsibility from Google.

"If Google and the ad agencies drain the swamp of piracy by removing their financial incentive - online advertising - then we would have a fertile environment in which paid-for content could flourish," Harman said in a speech this week.

"No-one could imagine how we would survive without Google – most of us use it hundreds of times a day. But it is because they are so effective – and trusted – that Google and other search engines should use their creative energy to help the music industry fight piracy."

Labour may be mining a promising seam. Google's close relations with No. 10 - Director of Strategy Steve Hilton is married to Rachel Whetstone, VP of communications and policy at the Chocolate Factory - has been called into question before. For example, Tory-supporting entrepreneur and former chairman of Channel 4, Luke Johnson, highlighted the Hilton-Whetstone relationship and queried whether Google's interests aligned with those of the UK. Johnson accused Google of being a parasite: sucking out revenues, and paying very little tax.

No. 10 was also the instigator of a review of the UK's IP laws. This enquiry rapidly earned the nickname of 'the Google Review', since it was introduced with a quote attributed to the Google founders by Prime Minister David Cameron. According to Cameron, the Google founders had said they could never have founded Google in the UK, because of copyright law here. There was one slight problem: the founders had never said anything of the sort, and the claim was finally traced to Google's European public policy director Richard Sargeant - who had led the lobbying for reform of copyright in Google's favour.

It appears that No.10 fell for 'carousel propaganda'. [defn.].

Harman says the Conservatives should speed up implementation of the Digital Economy Act, which has fallen into a bureaucratic coma, publishing the code of practice for ISPs and search engines, and should legislate further in the Communications Bill if no progress is made.

"There is a public policy imperative to protect rights owners. Currently rights holders feel that they are on their own, that the law is not enforced and the Intellectual Property Office is not on their side. So Government must act - gear up enforcement and tackle the fragmentation of the enforcement agencies," she said.

But when Google takes little notice of democratically-elected sovereign governments, why should it care about the opposition?

You can find the full speech here. ®

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