Search engines may face pirate law
Culture Secretary Sajid Javid has warned internet search engine companies legislation could be introduced if they do not make "real progress" in clamping down on links to pirate websites.
He emphasised the Government's tough stance on copyright infingement and said more must be done to tackle illegal sites.
In a speech to senior music industry figures, Mr Javid said he and Business Secretary Vince Cable had written to leading firms such as Google requesting they work with record firms in finding a way to stop giving easy access to sites which violate copyright.
Speaking at the AGM of music trade body BPI, he pointed to figures from Ofcom which in only three months of last year almost 200 million music tracks were "consumed illegally".
Mr Javid said: " No industry - and no Government - can let this level of infringement continue on such a massive, industrial scale.
"I know some people say the IP genie is out of the bottle and that no amount of wishing will force it back in. But I don't agree with them.
"Copyright infringement is theft, pure and simple. And it's vital we try to reduce it."
He went on: " Vince Cable and I have written to Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, asking them to work with you to stop search results sending people to illegal sites.
"And let me be perfectly clear, if we don't see real progress, we will be looking at a legislative approach."
He said the Government, the music industry and technology companies had to work together.
"We are all connected, we all have a role to play, and we must all work alongside each other to build a fair and legal online economy," he said.
A campaign backed by the Government to the tune of £3.5 million, Creative Content UK, is being launched in the coming months in an effort to persuade UK consumers to use only legal download sites.
It will include an education awareness drive and will see some internet providers advising customers if their accounts are thought to be being used to access material which infringes copyright.