Rights groups: Website-blocking plans should be public

Digital rights and anti-censorship groups have written to the BPI, the UK's music industry body, asking for secret web-blocking plans to be made public.According to the Open Rights Group, Article 19, Global Partners and Index on Censorship, the BPI and others met with communications minister Ed Vaizey on 4 April "to discuss a private website-blocking proposal in order to combat online copyright infringement".

Digital rights and anti-censorship groups have written to the BPI, the UK's music industry body, asking for secret web-blocking plans to be made public.

According to the Open Rights Group, Article 19, Global Partners and Index on Censorship, the BPI and others met with communications minister Ed Vaizey on 4 April "to discuss a private website-blocking proposal in order to combat online copyright infringement".

"As advocacy, consumer and public interest organisations, we are very concerned by this proposal," the groups wrote. "Website blocking is a form of censorship. Where decisions about blocking are unaccountable and when mistakes occur, there is the potential for infringement of citizens' freedom of expression. Furthermore, such schemes jeopardise people's rights to due process and the broader need for oversight and accountability.

"In short, website blocks, if widespread and compulsory for the vast majority of UK citizens, is a law enforcement task. It is a function of wide public interest affecting fundamental rights. It is therefore an activity that should be subject to human rights considerations and an open public debate. For these reasons, we are extremely keen to have early sight of any proposals being put forward to internet service providers, government officials and ministers."

The letter called on the BPI to publicly release the alleged proposals as soon as they are given to government and ISPs for comment. Apart from the BPI, other recipients of the same letter included the Publisher's Association — headed up by former BPI lobbyist Richard Mollett — UK Music, the FA Premier League and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA).

ZDNet UK has asked the government, the Publisher's Association, the BPI and UK Music for comment on the letter and the apparent website-blocking discussions, but no-one was forthcoming.

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