Google, Bing, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) and the Motion Pictures Association (MPA), in collaboration with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) have recently entered into what is considered a ‘landmark agreement’- the ‘Code of Practice on Search and Copyright’ (The Code), – towards curbing piracy and promoting the use of copyrighted content from legitimate sources. This agreement is the result of several clashes and between Google and right holders’ organizations, which have repeatedly accused Google of turning a blind eye to the rather rampant piracy issue.
The Code, as agreed upon on the 9th of February, 2017, gained effect immediately and targets for a visible drop in the usage of pirated content by June 1st, 2017. This six month period is basically a cooling period, after which the IPO will assess the effects of the Code, and prepare a report which will make recommendations. Such recommendations could include the imposition of heavy penalties and sanctions against those search engines who fail to comply with its provisions.
Copyright, design and patent act, 1988
Section 97A of the CDPA, empowers the High Court to issue an injunction against an Internet Service Provider (ISP) who has ‘actual knowledge’ of a subscriber using its service to infringe a copyright. This section was first used only in 2011 in the case of Twentieth Century Fox v. British Telecommunications Plc, (Fox v. BT). This case relates to a previous one, where the High Court held that the website ‘Newzbin’ was committing significant primary and secondary infringements of the Studio’s copyright in major Hollywood Films. Following this order, Newzbin quickly shut down, but was soon replaced with Newzbin2, a website providing the same services as Newzbin, but operating outside the UKs jurisdiction.
Digital economy act, 2010
The DEA was the first legislation that brought subscribers of illegal websites under the scanner, and made provisions wherein ISPs had to issue Copyright Infringement Reports (CIR) on the breach of a copyright. After a prescribed number of CIRs had been sent, the right holder, after obtaining an order from a Court, could obtain from the ISP the personal information of the infringing subscriber and initiate an infringement proceeding against him. Further, Section 17 of the DEA made provisions for website blocking i.e., it proposed restricting access to a ‘location’ from which copyrighted material could be either obtained, or made available, or both. However, since the web-blocking provisions of the DEA were too broad and did not propose a remedy which would offer results faster than the CDPA, the sections were removed from the Act. A more detailed understanding of the sections may be found here.
Operation creative and infringing website
OC and the IWL were initiatives launched by the City of London Police’s Intellectual Property Crime Unit in 2013. Advertisements from reputed sources tend to give the disreputable website a look of legitimacy, which misleads bona fide users. OC therefore majorly involved cutting the revenue earned by disreputable websites through adverts from reputed brands. This was achieved through the creation of the IWL- an online portal that makes an exhaustive list of all the infringing websites. This portal can be accessed by brands so that they ensure their ads are listed only on legitimate websites.
The reduction of Ad Revenue has also been contemplated as a measure under the Code, where search engines are to provide processes to promptly remove ads from specific advertisers that link to infringing content in response to notices from right holders, and terminate advertisers that receive repeated notices of infringement.
The creative content UK Programme (CCUK)
In 2014, representatives from UK’s creative industry and the four main ISPs in the UK, with the support of the Government, launched the CCUK to promote consumer awareness and encourage internet users to opt for legitimate content providers. The CCUK essentially adopted a two-fold approach:
- ‘Get It Right From A Genuine Site’ was a consumer awareness initiative, which aimed at highlighting the value of the creative industry and the plethora of legitimate content providers available for access to copyrighted content. It mainly targeted 16 to 24 year olds, members of their household, and other people who influenced their attitude towards the assessment of content;
- The CCUK also included ISPs sending out up to four e-mails a year to internet users who accessed disreputable websites and breached copyright laws. However, the e-mails were not followed up with any kind of punitive measures, such as denial of access to internet, and the agreement did not contemplate a mechanism which would allow the ISPs to make available to the right holders the details of suspected offenders, so that further action could be taken to put the practices to a stop.
The CCUK was intended to serve a purely educational purpose, and did not adopt any stringent measures which would curtail piracy and take more concrete steps towards abolition of the same.