Lib Dem peer on why site blocking is needed

Summary:Lord Clement-Jones discusses the Digital Economy Bill amendment that would see ISPs block access to websites offering copyright-infringing material

...people accessing it to unlawfully download, they've got to do something about that.

I find it odd that the reaction to this amendment seems to be based on the idea that it's not legitimate to defend copyright. If people are upfront about this, and say, "We don't believe in copyright", then I understand where they're coming from but I disagree.

But Limewire is a P2P client for the PC, rather than a website. Being connected to the internet, it might be possible to see it as an 'online location'. How would the amendment affect such an application? Would ISPs have to block it?
You've already got the peer-to-peer remedies in the Digital Economy Bill. That's what it's all about. That's what the possible technical measures code is all about. That bit of the bill is entirely designed to deal with P2P file sharing.

You can only detect on the upload, you can't detect on the download. By and large, the big issue is that people can only detect what's happening on the upload. The only new thing is that this deals with downloads from websites. You can identify the website — you can't identify the subscribers and you wouldn't want to.

Might an effect of this amendment not be to make people turn to encryption and other means of bypassing the block?
Be that as it may — and I'm not sure that's the case — this would not be a universal way of behaving.

If you look at what's happening with child pornography sites and other objectionable content, there hasn't been a growth in encrypted sites. People will realise when they contemplate setting up a site with a copyright-infringing business model, they will decide not to go ahead.

You have previously drawn this analogy between blocking copyright-infringing sites and blocking child pornography sites. Some people have expressed surprise at the comparison — how do you respond?
I was using it as an illustration to demonstrate that site blocking already exists. It is perfectly legitimate to do that. This is not a novel concept. There are sites that are identified as being blocked in various fields. I am not saying child pornography is equivalent to copyright infringement.

But is there not an important distinction to be made, in that child pornography is a criminal offence, while copyright infringement is a civil matter?
I don't think so, no. If you're infringing somebody's copyright on the web, it's something that should not be taking place.

Some comparisons have been made between your amendment and the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), which has in some cases seen businesses making claims against rivals, so as to hurt their business. Could this not happen here?
I think it's a matter of people testing it in the court. I don't think that will happen, because the courts will be pretty canny at knowing whether people are taking the mickey in the first place. They may take something down temporarily, but that's not really the point.

It has to be a copyright owner who is aggrieved that their material is on a website without permission. This is not some great freedom fight for the individual. Most of these infringing websites are commercial interests — maybe not all the P2P sites, but a lot of the non-P2P sites are commercial sites.

Do you think your amendment might need further tweaking to prevent it being used for some kind of censorship?
If there are rough edges to the amendment, we'll certainly look at those. If people have genuine amendments they want to put forward, I'd be perfectly happy to look at that, and I hope the government would too. But I don't believe, in its current form, there is any possibility of censorship.

Topics: Networking, Government : UK


David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't be paying many bills. His early journalistic career was spent in general news, working behind the scenes for BBC radio and on-air as a newsreader for independent stations. David's main focus is on communications, of both... Full Bio

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