As part of its mission to promote British music, record labels association the BPI supports the legal music market by disrupting the activities of illegal music sites – estimated to cost the UK recorded music sector upwards of £150 million a year1 .

Under one strand of its multi-pronged content protection strategy, which also includes criminal and civil enforcement, legal action to block illegal sites and consumer education (see further below), the BPI sends notices to search engines requesting that they remove search results that direct users to illegal music files on the internet.

Over the weekend, the BPI passed the milestone of the 500 millionth URL submitted to Google for delisting on behalf of UK artists and labels. The BPI is the world’s second-highest remover of content from Google, and in addition has sent 398 million removal notices to Microsoft for Bing & Yahoo. The BPI expects to pass one billion total links submitted for removal by search engines during 2020. In total, over 4.5 billion infringing links have to date been removed from Google by all copyright holders globally.

The removal notices sent by the BPI are targeted at thousands of illegal sites of all types, including P2P torrent sites and trackers, mp3 aggregators, cyberlockers and stream rippers, and they protect the recordings of tens of thousands of artists and labels every year.

In addition to removing the specific illegal links, under a government-brokered Code of a Practice that BPI negotiated with Google and Microsoft in 2017, sites that appear repeatedly in notices are demoted by search engines out of search results globally. The combined effect of high-volume notice sending and site demotion has transformed the search results presented to consumers in most cases, ensuring that legal services appear more prominently than before in top search results and that the incidence of illegal sites, and their profile to consumers, is reduced. The BPI strongly welcomes this positive collaboration from search engines, and has been working, with support from Government, to try to persuade social media companies, online marketplaces and the digital advertising industry to put in place similar voluntary collaborative measures, reducing the role their services play in supporting the pirate economy.

Reaching this milestone illustrates vividly that, despite the progress made, the rights of creators continue to be infringed online on an industrial scale. It demonstrates that a new approach is needed to make the internet safer for consumers and fairer for musicians, labels or anyone pursuing a creative career.