Lib Dem peer on why site blocking is needed

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

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On Tuesday, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones and the Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising successfully added an amendment to the Digital Economy Bill that would let copyright holders gain high court injunctions forcing ISPs to block access to websites that have received copyright-infringement claims.

Amendment 120a swiftly earned outrage from ISPs and privacy campaigners, who have branded it, in the words of the ISP Association (ISPA), "hastily constructed and rushed through at report stage without due consideration of the implications".

The government's Digital Economy Bill, set out in late 2009, is largely concerned with cracking down on online copyright infringement. It is being debated in the House of Lords, and will subsequently go to the Commons for further scrutiny.

ZDNet UK spoke to Lord Clement-Jones on Thursday to find out more about the motivation behind and implications of Amendment 120a.

Q: What is the purpose of Amendment 120a?
A: The purpose is very clear — it's to prevent copyright infringement.

It replaces Clause 17, which the Lib Dems opposed, does it not?
It's a much more specific way of replacing Clause 17. We took objection to the fact that the government would change copyright law by order.

We kept saying: "Show us a situation where you think you're going to need this kind of power." The government, frankly, didn't come back, but we came to the conclusion with the Conservative front bench that this was a matter of doing something now to prevent some of these overseas websites infringing copyright and getting away with it. It's a growing problem.

Is the overseas nature of these websites the reason you are going after the conduit, not the source?
It is sometimes very difficult to distinguish between the two. Of course the ISP is a conduit, but one is asking the ISP to take down a website which people are getting access to via their service provider. Their business model is often based on being able to infringe copyright. That's the worst example.

Frankly, copyright enforcement against someone in the UK is relatively straightforward. This power is only an adjunct to the existing copyright law, which says copyright owners have the right to gain injunctions against service providers.

Arguably, under [section 97A in Part 1 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988], [there is] already the right to block sites. I don't quite take the argument that this is a terribly dangerous new power, precisely because it's an adjunct.

If there is already a law for blocking websites, why is new legislation necessary?
Because it makes it more specific — specifically, this will allow takedowns. It's very carefully controlled. The ISP is at the end of the road only when you can't get satisfaction from [contacting] the website.

Some people have drawn an analogy with UK libel laws, where super-injunctions sometimes have a chilling effect on the media. Will this not also cause self-censorship in the face of expensive legal action, in this case by ISPs?
This is completely different. Libel law is often a matter of opinion. Sometimes there are super-injunctions made, as with [John] Terry, which are often designed to gag free speech.

This is about the protection of legitimate rights. It is perfectly easily establishable whether there are rights attached to a particular copyright owner.

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Photographers are worrying about people trampling over their rights [by using their images online]. This is for small creators, not just the big battalions [of rights owners]. The business model depends on people being able to download material without paying for it, in breach of copyright.

Are you saying that ISPs' business model is based on copyright infringement?
No, I'm talking about the service providers. A lot of business models are based on being able to deliver free music over the internet. The only way to get at them is by giving them notice, then, if they don't take them down, go to the service providers.

Would this not make websites such as YouTube, which frequently hosts copyright-infringing material, liable?
Whenever they are asked to do so, they behave impeccably and take down copyright material. There's no question they would be involved. Google behaves impeccably — this is just a red herring. YouTube always demonstrate their good faith. There is no question they would be vulnerable.

Is the wording in your amendment clear enough to avoid making sites like YouTube liable?
The wording is entirely clear. If you started action against YouTube, they would take it down.

Your amendment repeatedly refers to 'online locations'. What does that mean, specifically?
That's the websites we're talking about.

What about services such as Limewire, which are often used for perfectly legitimate purposes?
Websites aren't just simply mere conduits. Websites have responsibility. If their business model depends on...

Topics: Broadband, Government UK, 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.

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6 comments
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  • Unintended consequences?

    Lord Clement Jones doesn't seem to be concerned that the wording of the Bill could force the owners of WiFi access points to react to requests to block offending sites and applications. I can see that many access points will close down rather than face the hassle of threats from lawyers and ISPs
    idontknow2012
  • Lord Clement Jones

    Why didn't the interviewer ask LCJ about the
    iCowboy-d94c5
  • Shear stupidity

    It is the resposibility of the publisher to stop thier media being copied - this has come about because they are too lasy or stupid to (jointly) work out a solution.

    The other far more important issue is that this will become very one-sided where the publisher can demand the "cut-off" of an internet connection when it can be nearly imposible to guarantee that the correct person is being targetted.

    It would be far better and far less draconian (anti human rights) to simply "hire out" tunes and videos in LOWER QUALITY thus encouraging people to "Try before they buy" .... the problem is that 90% of the media that is published is REALLY RUBBISH ... if it is genuinely good people will want to "keep/buy a copy for posterity" most times they want to listen to see "if it is worth buying" ... generally not. (WE have some movies that REALLY ARE GOOD - we bought copies so we could play them over and over again - but then you miss out on pay-per-view .....

    Irronically some of the VERY BEST material has long since been "out of print" and so the ONLY way to obtain this material is to Copy it from sites or friends that (can) make it available.

    I have a collection of Vinyl LPS of some very iconnic and "classic" performances. Virtually every one of these LP has long since been out of print and were never released on CD - likewise films never converted to DVD.

    Besides it is so simple to copy a movie from the TV Channels (in HD) or Music from the Wireless (digital direct to CD) - will you bann these media outlets next ? Why would anyone really want to buy stuff when it can be obtained so easily other ways and buy "off the shelf" products. These days too many items are "forced down our throats" ... in retaliation people want / need time to evaluate the product to see if they really want to purchase it - try before you buy.

    This kind of censorship will simply eveolve into something more draconian - censoship of the internet IS A VER BAD IDEA GENERALLY and one has to ask "what ever happened to freedom to act as you wish provide no one is harmed" .... contrary to the media moguls hype .... the people who download Movies and Music would never have 'purchased it anyway - they would simply find someone else to copy it from and and every CD, DVD, Video, Music track CAN be copied (the technology is freely available (under Windows Apps) .... like they did before the Internet made it a little easier.

    If you want to give an excuse for future censorship GENERALLY .... then allow this to go through ..... if you want to keep the internet for its intended purposes then it should never ever be censored and ISPs should not be expected to clear up the mess caused by the Media providers.

    I rest my case mi'lord
    paul@...
  • what error may I ask please ??
    Scribes.M.
  • It appears any too severe criticisms relating to our house of lords, unelected though they are is totally blocked .... free speech .... since when.
    Scribes.M.
  • Disgusted though not surprised ...
    Scribes.M.