26/09/2013 04:07 BST | Updated 25/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Google's 'Excuses' On Illegal Downloads Are 'Flimsy' Say MPs

A poster with an image of Queen Elizabeth II incorporated into the Google logo at the company's British headquarters, in Buckingham Palace Road, central London, during a visit by the Queen.

Google has offered only "flimsy" excuses for failing to deal with illegal downloads, an influential committee of MPs has warned.

A report from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee warned that a failure to tackle online piracy could undermine the multimillion-pound success of the UK's creative industries.

It called for the appointment of an Intellectual Property (IP) champion to promote awareness of the issue and the raising of the maximum penalty for online IP theft from two years imprisonment to 10 years.

The committee's chairman, John Whittingdale MP, said creative industries including the film and music business were of "huge importance to our economy" but would be "put at risk if creators cannot rely on a strong framework of intellectual property rights which are robustly enforced".

He said: "We are also unimpressed by Google's continued failure to stop directing consumers to illegal, copyright infringing material on the flimsy excuse that some of the sites may also host some legal content.

"The continuing promotion of illegal content through search engines is simply unacceptable, and efforts to stop it have so far been derisory.

"There is no reason why they cannot demote and ultimately remove sites hosting large amounts of illegal material from search engine results.

"Google and others already work with international law enforcement to block for example child porn from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible reason why it can't do the same for illegal, pirated content. Copyright infringement is a serious crime that threatens our economic future."

Illegal downloaders face a ''three strikes and you're out'' system under plans unveiled by communications watchdog Ofcom last year.

The Ofcom draft code is an attempt to crack down on online piracy and encourage internet users to download music and films legally.

Industry bodies will monitor file-sharing sites and pass on information on illegal downloaders to the biggest internet service providers (ISPs) who will then write to customers informing them of allegations they have infringed copyright.

If customers get three or more letters within 12 months, copyright holders, such as record labels or film studios, can seek a court order allowing them to be identified so they can face legal action.

UK Music - an umbrella body which represents producers of music including artists, songwriters and record labels - welcomed the report.

Chief Executive Jo Dipple said: "The committee is right to say that the continuing promotion by search engines of illegal content on the internet is unacceptable.

"Google has to stop feeding up unlicensed free content. Google has to start acknowledging the responsibility it has to the consumers it serves. It is very un-British to ride so roughshod over our customers.

"It has to stop. The report is also right to say that hasty legislation in this area might compromise new business-to-business deals and, ultimately, ministers might regret interfering in these markets.

"I intend to discuss the findings in this report next week with Secretary of State Maria Miller when we host a panel with her at the Conservative Arts and Creative Industries Networking event in Manchester."