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British intellectual property advisor urges softer stance on Google

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The intellectual property advisor to British Prime Minister David Cameron has some advice for Hollywood: Work with Google.

"We shouldn't just focus on Google being the problem," said Michael Weatherley, a member of the British Parliament, at a meeting in Los Angeles on Wednesday. "We have to remember they are not creating the illegal content and they are not using the illegal content, they are just facilitating between the two."

Weatherley was referring to the pitched battle that erupted two years ago between the major entertainment studios and Google, as well as other tech companies, after the Motion Picture Assn. of America backed controversial federal bills aimed at cracking down on websites distributing pirated movies and TV shows.

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The bills -- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect the IP Act (PIPA) -- failed in Congress in 2012 after Google and other tech giants led an unprecedented online campaign to defeat the measures, which they viewed as an attack on Internet freedoms.

The conflict probably could have been avoided had the sides engaged in a dialogue earlier, Weatherley said.

"Part of the solution is with Google and we need to work with them," the British lawmaker said, adding that he recently received a briefing from the Mountain View, Calif.-based Internet giant on steps to curb piracy of movies and music. "I know in America ... they are considered much more of a pariah than they are perhaps in the U.K. But I have to say they are engaging with me and they recognize that something has got to be done."

Weatherley was in Los Angeles to address a group of studio legal and international executives at a meeting hosted by the Motion Picture Licensing Corp., which represents more than 400 producers and distributors, including the major studios, on copyright compliance issues.

Earlier in the week, he met in Washington, D.C., with representatives of the Motion Picture Assn. of America and the Recording Industry Assn. of America to discuss his country's strategy for combating piracy, including hosting an annual event called "Rock the House" in which in which politicians enter rock bands from their districts in a nationwide competition.

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The contest provides an outlet for musicians, introduces politicians to members of the creative community and helps educate the broader public about the value of copyrighted work to the overall economy, Weatherley said. The MPAA is exploring the idea of hosting a similar contest for filmmakers, he said.

The focus on copyright protections in Britain has heightened as the country's entertainment sector has rapidly expanded. Britain is now a leading center for major Hollywood movies due to its generous film incentives, and is one of only three countries in the world that is a net exporter of music.

"Quite frankly we've lost the hearts and minds of kids out on the street," he said. "If we went out on the street now, I'm not sure what it's like in Los Angeles, but certainly in London, the vast majority would be downloading for free and think there is nothing wrong with that. We don't just have to tell them that it's wrong and they are going to lose their content. We also need to show that it's going to affect their own futures."

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richard.verrier@latimes.com

Twitter: @rverrier

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