UK Intellectual Property Minister Lord Younger has claimed Google has better access to the British government than he does, according to a report condemning the search engine giant for failing to tackle music and film piracy.
The Commons culture, media and sport committee, led by Conservative chairman John Whittingdale, also revealed concerns “across the creative spectrum” about Google’s influence within government.
The committee criticised Google for its “derisory” attempts to combat illegal downloads, which it said cost the creative industries millions of pounds each year in lost revenue.
According to the report, Lord Younger told MPs: “Google is one of several search engines. I am very aware of their power, put it that way.
“I am also very aware, I think, that they have access, for whatever reason, to higher levels than me in No. 10, I understand.”
The report added: “We have also heard complaints from across the creative spectrum about the perceived power and influence of Google in the government’s inner, policy-making sanctum.”
Questions have been raised in the past about links between Prime Minister David Cameron and Google. The company’s global head of communications, Rachel Whestone, is a former colleague of Cameron from Carlton Television and she is married to his former policy adviser Steve Hilton.
The committee said it was “unimpressed” by Google’s failure to do more about piracy based on the “excuse” that the sites may also host some legal content.
“The continuing promotion of illegal content through search engine is simply unacceptable and efforts to stop it have so far been derisory,” the report said.
However, a Google spokesman said the company was taking steps: “We removed more than 20 million links to pirated content from our search results in the last month alone.
“But search is not the problem – according to Ofcom just eight per cent of infringers in the UK use Google to find unlicensed film and 13 per cent to find unlicensed music.
“Google works harder than anyone to help the film and music industry protect the content online.”
According to figures from UK music body, the BPI, the number of sites in Google search samples returning results for website hosting pirated material has fallen by just two per cent in the last year. The body said 61 per cent of the top 10 sites for artists searched on Google offered illegal downloads compared to 63 per cent last year.