Culture Committee slams Government, Google over copyright theft

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25 Sep 2013
The House of Commons Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee has condemned the Government for allowing search giant Google too much sway over moves to relax UK copyright laws, risking the success of the country’s £36 billion a year creative industries.

In its latest report published this week, the Committee also criticises Google over corporation tax avoidance and its failure to tackle copyright theft on the internet.

Such illegal piracy, the Committee says, combined with proposals to introduce copyright exceptions and a failure to strengthen enforcement pose a grave threat to the livelihoods of artists and companies in the UK’s music, film and literary industries.

The report welcomes the planned extension of tax credits from films, where they have been enormously successful, to high end drama production and video games. 

But the Government’s postponement in 2010 of the credit planned by the outgoing Labour administration to help the games industry in the face of fierce international competition, it finds, has contributed to a 10 per cent decline in the sector over recent years.

Education Secretary Michael Gove also faces renewed criticism for effectively narrowing choice in the national curriculum, risking future skills in the arts, design and computing, over the way his reforms and targets mean schools’ success will be measured in practice.

‘This has been a long enquiry into the creative industries, where Britain leads the world,’ said Newcastle-under-Lyme’s Labour MP and Committee member Paul Farrelly. ‘It has taken evidence from a wide range of witnesses and the conclusions are unanimous and cross-party.’

‘Throughout, we have heard complaints over the undue influence Google has through its lobbying in Downing Street. We should not be risking the success of our music, film and book industries by relaxing copyright laws for the principal benefit of American multi-nationals who put nothing back through their unfair avoidance of tax.’ 

The proposed relaxations, including a so-called ‘private copying exception’, follow the conclusions of the Government’s Hargreaves Review – often dubbed the ‘Google Review’ – with which the Committee takes strong issue. 

At the same time, the Government has failed to implement parts of the Digital Economy Act, passed before the 2010 election, which provide for stronger enforcement against piracy.

At its next meeting on Thursday, 10th October – after Parliament resumes following the Party Conference season – the Committee will resume its enquiry into the future of press regulation with questions to Lord Justice Leveson.

It is the judge’s first public interview since he published his report into the press almost a year ago and will follow consideration by the Privy Council the previous day, finally, of the newspapers’ own controversial Royal Charter to set up a new regulator.

A copy of the press release accompanying the Creative Industries report can be found here:

A copy of the whole report can be read or downloaded from the Committee website: