British MPs Argue About Google’s Influence Over Copyright Policy

Google's ears must be ringing because the House of Commons seems to be saying its name a lot this week. Ministers in the UK are arguing over Google's supposed influence in UK copyright policy.

Pete Wishart, a Scottish MP from Perth, took to the floor earlier in the week to give online rights groups and companies like Google a piece of his mind. Ars Technica has a great news story chronicling the exchange among lawmakers. First up is MP Wishart:

"Those who now have the Government’s ear are not particularly helpful," proclaimed Wishart. "Some have become self-serving protectionists and are telling the Government their views. Self-appointed digital rights champions seem to rule the roost when informing Government opinion, and everything that the Government do is predicated on the support for and desire to please massive multi-billion dollar west-coast United States companies such as Google."

"I do not know why Google has the Government’s ear, but I do not contend that it has a particular lobbying influence inside No. 10," he continued. "I do not even suggest that Steve Hilton, the special policy adviser, has a special relationship with Google. I do not suggest such things or contend them today. For some reason, however, Google has the ear of the Government, and it was no surprise that, when Ian Hargreaves initiated his review [of copyright policy], many people called it the Google review."

Eric Joyce, MP for Falkirk, took issue with Wishart's framing of the debate:

"There is a general trend in debates such as this to laud the importance of intellectual property, and, sometimes—as at the beginning of the speech of the hon. Member for Perth and North Perthshire—to see the counter-argument as a matter of big bad Google lobbying No. 10 in a somehow illegitimate way. I have no idea what the hon. Gentleman is referring to in saying that kind of stuff about special contacts inside Downing street…."

"It is a fact that the internet is a fantastic copying machine, and that is what happens," he continued. "If we want to criminalise everyone who does it, we are on a hiding to nothing. We are criminalising everyone’s children to start with."

Kevin Brennan, MP for Cardiff West, agreed that charging children with crimes wasn't a good idea (thank goodness), but returned to the topic of Google's influence:

"Is not the issue that powerful business interests effectively direct those who are searching for something on the internet to illegal sites that do not just copy the odd thing, but are factories for ripping off people’s intellectual property rights; and that if companies such as Google were more responsible and had some corporate social responsibility they would not be directing people, effectively, to the illegal end of the market?…"

"I have just googled 'Empire State of Mind' by Alicia Keys and Jay-Z, and the first five results offered a free download of that track on Google, Brennan added. "Why does a Google search not direct people to a legal site where they could purchase the track?"

While these back-and-forths are entertaining (British politics are always much more spirited than ours), you can probably tell that no one's mind is being changed with these discussions. And while some MPs enjoy throwing Google's name around there's no doubt that the influence of Hollywood and the music industry have stretched their tentacles eastward towards England's welcoming shores.

Source: Ars Technica

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