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UK record labels criticise Google's digital music stance

Google Play, the search giant’s service for legal music which launches in the UK today, “doesn’t make sense” when held up against the piracy its search engine allegedly empowers, the UK’s major record labels have said.

The service was designed to compete with iTunes and provide Android users with an alternative to music piracy, but its existence contradicts what some in the music industry have described as a failure to sufficiently bury illegal music downloads in Google’s search results. The effect is “undermining artists,” the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has said.

Though Google announced earlier this year that it would modify its algorithm to give sites formally accused of piracy lower rankings, the changes have been slow to come about.

"We don't think it makes any sense for them to be doing something which does support artists and then, on the other hand, undermine artists by referring consumers to illegal sites,” the BPI’s chief executive Geoff Taylor told the BBC.

"We personally think that three months should be long enough to get it working. We personally think that three months should be long enough to get it working,” Taylor added.

The BPI boss acknowledged that Google Play’s arrival in the UK would open up the market to more competition, ultimately allowing consumers to have greater choice in accessing music legally. But Taylor urged Google to properly implement the piracy-targeted tweaks to its search algorithm.

But Google Play is a completely separate entity from the search engine, insisted Sami Valkonen, Google Play’s head of international licensing.

"The way that our search engine works is a completely separate algorithm from anything we do on Google Play," he said.

"I think that is something that is hopefully going to make piracy obsolete because it's so easy to operate within the bounds of the law that there is really no need to go beyond them,” Valkonen added.