In an amendment added to the Digital Economy Bill during the House of Lords report stage debate this afternoon, ISPs would be forced to block access to web sites on receipt of a claim of copyright infringement - in a similar manner to the American Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
The amendment, moved by Tory Lord Howard of Rising and Lib-Dem Lord Clement-Jones, , says that if an ISP fails to act, the claimed copyright owner can apply to a court to force the blocking and "...the Court shall order the service provider to pay the copyright owner's costs of the application unless there were exceptional circumstances justifying the service provider's failure to prevent access despite notification by the copyright owner"
In the US, similar provisions have resulted in organisations taking down content on receipt of a claim, with the content provider having to appeal thereafter to have access resumed.
Jim Killock of the Open Rights Group said in a posting: "This would open the door to a massive imbalance of power in favour of large copyright holding companies. Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive 'copyright attacks' that could shut them down, just by the threat of action. This is exactly how libel law works today: suppressing free speech by the unwarranted threat of legal action. The expense and the threat are enough to create a 'chilling effect'."
Glyn Wintle, also of the Open Rights Group, has been tweeting the session.
The Bill now has to go through a third reading in the House of Lords followed by two more readings, a committee stage, a report stage and a final reading in the House of Commons.