Search engine giants Google and Bing have signed up to a voluntary code of practice aimed at protecting users’ safety and prevent them from visiting disreputable content providers.
The code, the first of its kind in the UK, will accelerate the demotion of illegal sites following notices from rights holders.
It means those who search for content such as music videos, digital books and football coverage will more likely to be taken to bona fide providers rather than pirate sites where a user’s security may be at risk.
Eddy Leviten, director general at the Alliance for Intellectual Property, said: “Sometimes people will search for something and they will end up unwittingly being taken to a pirated piece of content.
“What we want to ensure is that the results at the top of the search engines are the genuine ones.
“It is about protecting people who use the internet, but also protecting the creators of that material too.
“You go into schools and speak to children and many will say they want to be on YouTube, to be a personality on there.
“When you explain to them that they need to protect their ideas, their content, from being stolen or pirated, they understand.”
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) led the discussions to create the code, with the assistance of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Ofcom has supported the discussions by examining in detail the way that search results are presented to internet users, and the group has explored possible techniques and metrics that can help UK consumers avoid illegitimate content more easily.
Organisers say this agreement will run in parallel with existing anti-piracy measures aimed at reducing online infringement.
These include court ordered site blocking, work with brands to reduce advertising on illegal sites and the Get it Right From A Genuine Site consumer education campaign, which encourages fans to value the creative process and directs them to legal sources of content.
Stan McCoy, of the Motion Picture Association in Europe, said: “Pirate websites are currently much too easy to find via search, so we appreciate the parties’ willingness to try to improve that situation.
“We look forward to working on this initiative alongside many other approaches to fighting online piracy, such as the Get it Right campaign that aims to help educate consumers about the many ways to enjoy film and television content legally and at the time of their choosing.”
The changes are expected to be rolled out by the summer.
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of BPI, representative body for UK record labels, and the Brit Awards, said: “Successful and dynamic online innovation requires an ecosystem that works for everyone, users, technology companies, and artists and creators.
“BPI has long campaigned for search engines to do more to ensure fans are directed to legal sources for music or other entertainment.
“There is much work still to do to achieve this.
“The code will not be a silver bullet fix, but it will mean that illegal sites are demoted more quickly from search results and that fans searching for music are more likely to find a fair site.”
UK Music chief executive Jo Dipple said: “This is the culmination of years of discussions between rights-holders and search engines.
“UK Music welcomes any progress that makes our digital markets more efficient.”