Lobbyists 'held closed-door meetings' with UK government to censor Web

Summary:Meetings between government ministers and copyright lobbyists show plans are being drawn up to censor the British web, to prevent illegal file sharing.

The UK government held secret committee meetings with company copyright officials, which may pave the way for the British web to be censored and blocked.

Ed Vaizey, current minister for culture, communications and creative industries, held meetings with copyright lobbyists to discuss the future of a free and open Web in the United Kingdom.

A plan leaked which describes a plan to create a committee of experts, which would go on to decide whether websites would be shut down and censored from the British public. Approved by an independent judge, a streamlined process would be created to allow the immediate blocking of a website.

The leaked documents can be found here.

While this plan has not been finalised, it shows the effort that the coalition government is going to in reducing file sharing and illegal copyright infringement on the web.

This could also have a significant impact on freedom of speech, for which British law does not have definitive legislation to fall back on; unlike the United States.

The story broke late last night. When public interest groups like the Open Rights Group asked to attend the high-level ministerial meetings, they were "shut out" -- leaving both sides of the argument firmly out in the cold.

The Digital Economy Act was brought in after the guillotine fell in Westminster, shortly before the 2010 general election. Since then, there have been numerous legal battles to repeal or to clarify the Act, which has wide ranging and vague powers to limit freedom of speech on the British internet.

One of the more controversial elements to the Digital Economy Act is the ability for government and judges to perform mandatory website and domain name blocking.

Related content:

Topics: Browser, Government, Government : US

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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