ISPs attack 'misguided' site-blocking plan

ISPs attack 'misguided' site-blocking plan

Summary: A Liberal Democrat and Conservative amendment to the Digital Economy Bill has been 'rushed through', the ISP Association has said


The ISP Association has said it is outraged at an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would let copyright holders force ISPs to block websites accused of unlawfully giving access to copyrighted material.

In a statement on Thursday, ISPA said Amendment 120a, passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday, was "hastily constructed and rushed through at report stage without due consideration of the implications or consultation with the interested parties that would be affected".

The amendment, which permits copyright holders to apply for high court injunctions to shut down suspected infringing sites, was successfully proposed by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones and Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising.

The measure is partly intended to replace Clause 17, a section of the bill that would have given the business secretary the right to amend copyright legislation to meet changes in technology used to break copyright.

"ISPA has been supportive of peers' excellent scrutiny of the bill to date," ISPA general secretary Nicholas Lansman said in the statement. "However, in this instance, our members are extremely concerned that the full implications of the amendment have not been understood and that the reasoning behind the amendment is wholly misguided. We would therefore urge the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to urgently reconsider their position."

The ISP trade body said the amendment is biased in favour of rights owners. It also noted that the lords behind the amendment have drawn parallels between blocking copyright-infringing sites and blocking child pornography sites.

"The suggestion that a framework developed to fight against the distribution of criminal images of child sexual abuse is appropriate to tackle allegations of civil copyright infringement is incomprehensible," ISPA said.

Speaking to ZDNet UK on Thursday, Clement-Jones said he had used the analogy "as an illustration to demonstrate that site blocking already exists".

"It is perfectly legitimate to do that," Clement-Jones said. "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."

Clement-Jones denied there was a distinction to be made between blocking for criminal and civil offences. "If you're infringing somebody's copyright on the web, it's something that should not be taking place," he said.

ISPA pointed out that network-level blocking was "ineffective", as people can get around these restrictions by using various technological means such as proxies and encryption.

Clement-Jones said he did not think such workarounds would be "a universal way of behaving". He also said the blocking of child pornography websites had not led to a growth in the use of encryption to avoid such restrictions.

Amendment 120a also drew the ire of security researcher Richard Clayton of the University of Cambridge.

"This is a completely nonsensical, unworkable proposal," Clayton said. "It appears to assume that ISPs can just block sites, which is only workable if you block the whole IP address."

Clayton added that the amendment's proposed framework for takedown requests from rights holders could lead to a "huge chilling effect" on the flow of information on the web.

"The Daily Telegraph set up a site which showed MPs' expenses, which are Crown Copyright," Clayton said. "If this law was in effect, any MP could get that site taken down."

However, Clement-Jones said he did not believe his amendment, in its current form, raised "any possibility of censorship".

ZDNet UK's Tom Espiner contributed to this report.

Topics: Broadband, Networking

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • dinosaurs and ignoramus in charge of legislation

    some highly paid lobbyist today is rubbing hand with glee and banking a large fat fee. This site alone is full of articles that make a nonsense of the whole ethos behind the Digital economy Bill as a piece of junk legislation and shows a tail is waggng the dog. In the same way that the vested interests raised their barriers to cassette machines, photocopiers and even sky+ boxes, and the way in which DRM, Blue ray encryption etc has been circumvented all this bill does is illustrate the absolute incomprehension by the legislature and its institutions as to what the www actually is. It shows why government IT projects have failed, and I doubt if the House of Commons will do any better when they take a bite at all this. I really think that having seen the mess at web filtering in NZ,China,Australia and Italy recently and the ease with which it can be circumvented,the word is stable door wide open but the finger in the dyke inserted too late! And as to making open wifi illegal everyone should buy or install a FON router now. Let them then sue 7million people if they can- it will take years! It would be akin to sueing everyone with a sky dish!
  • FON

    I have this & last year BT said they have means to protect me
  • Why the indecent haste?

    This Bill was drafted in a hurry and is being put through the demographic process in a rush. The imminence of an election is of course behind this Gadarene approach. But surely enough expert, negative comment has now been amassed to make the lawmakers stop and think. Maybe the drafters of the Bill were not fully aware of the unintended consequences? Or maybe the copyright lobbying machine was too powerful to resist? Either way, this is bad legislation. Those who are promoting it in its present form should consider which is preferable - bad legislation now, or good legislation after the election?
  • I smell a rat !

    And, the old assumtion is: If you notice ONE there is TWENTY !

    These particular rats are the ones that are paid handsomely ( "lobbyists " aka " corruptionists " ) when they achieve their goal.

    It seems too easy to fool polititians when it has ANYTHING to do with IT.