Feeds

Google's boffins branded 'unacceptably ineffective' at tackling web piracy

'Not beyond wit' to block rip-offs say MPs demanding copyright safeguards

3 Big data security analytics techniques

Analysis Parliament's Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee has harshly criticised the government and Google in a report into the UK's creative industries.

The MPs want the 2010 Digital Economy Act - which cracks down on downloaders of pirated material and other copyright infringers - activated without further delay. And the panel wants recommendations from Professor Ian Hargreaves' radical review of UK intellectual property – the so-called "Google Review" – scrapped.

This comes after the backbenchers concluded the government is largely barking up the wrong tree with its policy on protecting intellectual property in Blighty (or not as the case seems to be). As El Reg has explained in exhaustive length (see the lefthand related stories), rather than building markets based on property rights, it has instead set about dismantling the very rights that people in those markets need to earn a crust.

"We regret that the Hargreaves report adopts a significantly low standard in relation to the need for objective evidence in determining copyright policy," the MPs write in their report. "We do not consider Professor Hargreaves has adequately assessed the dangers of putting the established system of copyright at risk for no obvious benefit."

The influential cross-party committee took evidence for over a year and canvassed opinion over 10 separate hearing sessions and visited technology and creative companies in California.

The British government had broadly accepted the Hargreaves recommendations, but the committee is scathing about the intellectual quality of the media professor's exercise.

"We are deeply concerned that there is an underlying agenda driven at least partly by technology companies (Google foremost among them) which, if pursued uncritically, could cause irreversible damage to the creative sector on which the United Kingdom’s future prosperity will significantly depend," the MPs warn.

The "Google Review" earned its nickname, in part, because when it was announced by David Cameron, he quoted the Google founders in support of it. The "quote" – that Google's founders could "never have started their company in Britain" – turned out not to exist.

The review was slipped into the Conservative agenda by former director of strategy Steve Hilton, who has close ties with Google, and has cited the advertising network as a model for government operations.

The (latest) copyright minister Lord Younger appeared to affirm Google's privileged relationship with top Conservatives when he appeared before the select committee this year.

"I am also very aware … that 'Google' have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No 10, I understand," he told startled MPs. "They are a vociferous action group and a big company to put it bluntly, and are quite powerful."

Banks and other financing institutions also get a kicking, for being "blinkered and unimaginative" and risk-averse when considering investment in creative businesses. Which is harsh – would you lend money to an intellectual-property-creating business, knowing that Whitehall and the government would prefer to destroy the market – and could?

The UK government is approaching the problem of protecting copyrighted stuff as a regulatory problem, and is widening existing copyright exceptions (ultimately allowing people to freely do more with others' work) and "maxing out" its freedom to bring in new copyright exceptions - something that's narrowly proscribed by EU law.

Specifically, the MPs fear the development of commercially successful music-streaming services could be hindered by extending private copying exemption into the cloud. EU member states are permitted to introduce an exception for private copying, but only if the rights-holder is compensated in some way.

Most states have implemented this exception, and all but two include some compensation. The UK is arguing that this is not necessary, since it's "priced in" at the point of purchase of a copying or playback device. The MPs find this unconvincing:

We are not convinced by Hargreaves’ implication that a facility for private copying is factored into the purchase either of music or devices that store, play or copy it.

They advise: "We do not believe a case has been made for applying a private copying exception to audiovisual content and it should therefore be excluded."

MPs heard from Google reps, but the backbenchers weren't impressed that the giant ad-broker had done enough to promote legitimate offerings and demote scuzzy pirate sites.

"We strongly condemn the failure of Google, notable among technology companies, to provide an adequate response to creative industry requests to prevent its search engine directing consumers to copyright-infringing websites," the MPs stormed.

"We are unimpressed by their evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content.

"The continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable. So far, their attempts to remedy this have been derisorily ineffective."

They continue:

We do not believe it to be beyond the wit of the engineers employed by Google and others to demote and, ideally, remove copyright-infringing material from search engine results. Google co-operates with law enforcement agencies to block child pornographic content from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible answer as to why it cannot do the same for sites which blatantly, and illegally, offer pirated content.

The MPs also want jail terms for copyright infringement - not for casual freetards, it appears, but for commercial-scale operators such as Anton Vickerman. They note that the successful prosecution of Vickerman, who operated a site called SurfTheChannel, was convicted of conspiracy to defraud, rather than copyright infringement.

MPs also called for a copyright "czar" within government to counteract the institutional bias against copyright found at the old Patents Office, known since 2006 as the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). The panel also found it odd that the IPO is within the government's business department, rather than the Ministry of Fun. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.