Government scraps plan to block illegal filesharing websites
Vince Cable the Government’s business secretary has scrapped plans this Wednesday which would have introduced the blocking of illegal filesharing websites as set out in the Digital Economy Act last year. He announced that site blocking is too cumbersome and unworkable, and work is being done on other ways to tackle online copyright infringement specifically looking at a plan to bring down piracy sites.
“Music and film makers have to be able to take effective and justified measures,” Vince Cable said. “The basic philosophy is we do recognise the need for protection, but it has to be protection that’s proportionate to needs and based on evidence.”
Ed Vaizey, the communications minister, said that the existing measures were too cumbersome and unworkable to have a real impact. He said that a specially commmissioned Ofcom report into the feasibility of site blocking legislation proved that it was too elaborate and complicated to go through, adding: “We haven’t said no to site blocking per se, forever.”
Rights holders have heavily lobbied for the introduction of site-blocking legislation to curb digital piracy. However, Vaizey said that last week’s landmark high court ruling, which forced BT to cut off access to mass-piracy site Newzbin2, showed that there is a route forward if rights holders want to take it.
“One of the things I’ve enabled is conversations between ISPs and rights holders,” he said. “I want to see if ISPs and rights holders can come to agree a process to get facts together before going to court. The key point is up to court to make a [final] decision”.
To many this move will seem like the right one as filesharing sites are notoriously difficult to shut down and is a very different proposal to shutting down pirate sites that offer downloads from their own servers. To some it felt like the Digital Economy Act was a step in the right direction but was not clearly thought through and as such was built on some fundamental errors in understanding. Last week’s landmark case between BT and the Motion Picture Association is a great position to start clamping down on copyright infringement but will require some streamlining of court proceedings and a slight change in mindset from rights holders to deal with demand in the digital age. See here for my thoughts on this previously: (Judge Orders BT To Block Pirate Website) A view shared by Lavinia Carey, director-general of the British Video Association who said that the Newzbin case was expensive and a more “streamlined” legal process, as outlined in the act, would be “better for everybody”. (source: FT.com)