Google is accused by MPs of jeopardising thousands of British jobs by failing to block websites providing illegal downloads of music and films.
In a scathing report, the Culture, Media and Sport select committee condemned the internet giant's “derisory” efforts to tackle online piracy and denounced its explanation for its inaction as “flimsy”.
It said the creative industries were worth £36bn a year to the British economy and employed 1.5m people, but warned that would be put at risk if they could not rely on tough intellectual property safeguards.
The industry estimates that piracy costs it £400m in lost revenues a year. More than one-third of films watched online are viewed unlawfully and £1bn-worth of music is illegally downloaded annually.
The committee reserved its strongest words for Google, accusing it of failing to explain why its search engine still directed people to websites flouting copyright rules and challenging it to remove more illegal sites or to demote them down lists of search results.
It criticised the company for its “evident reluctance to block infringing websites on the flimsy grounds that some operate under the cover of hosting some legal content”.
John Whittingdale, the committee's chairman, said: “The continuing promotion of illegal content through search engines is simply unacceptable and efforts to stop it have so far been derisory.
”There is no reason why they cannot demote and ultimately remove sites hosting large amounts of illegal material from search engine results.
“Google and others already work with international law enforcement to block for example child porn from search results and it has provided no coherent, responsible reason why it can't do the same for illegal, pirated content. Copyright infringement is a serious crime that threatens our economic future.”
UK Music, which represents artists, songwriters and record labels, condemned the promotion by search engines of illegal content as unacceptable.