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MPs amend Digital Economy Bill to force search engines to deal with piracy

A newly proposed amendment to the UK's Digital Economy Bill could end up forcing search engines to remove sites linked to pirated material from their search results.

The amendment was proposed by a group of MPs after a lobbying campaign led by copyright holders. They are trying to use the Digital Economy Bill to force search engines to adopt a new 'code of practice' that contains new rules for how they should operate. Any search engine that fails to comply to these rules could face heavy fines for failing to do so.

The MPs behind the amendment have added a new clause to the bill named “Power to provide for a code of practice related to copyright infringement” with the aim of making search engines agree to a so called “voluntary agreement” with copyright holders.

The amendment itself offers more details as to how regulations could be applied to search engines and how they would be penalised for breaking them: “The Secretary of State may by regulations make provision for a search engine to be required to adopt a code of practice concerning copyright infringement that complies with criteria specified in the regulations. The regulations may provide that if a search engine fails to adopt such a code of practice, any code of practice that is approved for the purposes of that search engine by the Secretary of State, or by a person designated by the Secretary of State, has effect as a code of practice adopted by the search engine.”

Kevin Brenan, the Labour MP for Cardiff West who co-authored the amendment criticised search engines for their lack of responsibility in Parliament, saying: “They continue to take little responsibility for the fact that listings can overwhelmingly consist of illegal content – the equivalent of the 'Yellow Pages' refusing to take responsibility for publishing the details of crooked traders and fraudsters.” 

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Anthony Spadafora
After living and working in South Korea for seven years, Anthony now resides in Houston, Texas where he writes about a variety of technology topics for ITProPortal.