Copyright crackdown dominates ISPA 'villain' awards

The ISP Association has nominated backers of the Digital Economy Bill for its 'internet villain' award, while opponents of the bill are nominated for internet hero

The ISP Association has unveiled the nominees for the internet heroes and villains categories in its annual awards, with the Digital Economy Bill proving a strong influence in selection.

The industry body announced the nominees on Tuesday, ahead of the ISPA Awards ceremony on 8 July. Bridget Fox, Tom Watson and the 38 Degrees campaign group, all opponents of the bill, are up for internet hero of the year.

Nominees for internet villain of the year include the bill's progenitor Lord Mandelson, the entire UK parliament — "for allowing the Digital Economy Bill to pass through the Commons without proper debate" — and the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones, who introduced a web-blocking amendment to the bill "without sufficient research or understanding of the consequences".

"The announcement of the internet hero and internet villain are always eagerly anticipated, and are the highlights of the ISPA award ceremony," ISPA secretary general Nicholas Lansman said in a statement.

"The internet, now a major accelerator of the UK economy, has become increasingly a matter of public debate. It is therefore more important than ever to recognise those who have really made a positive impact on this sector. As for the internet villain, this is a good opportunity to highlight — in a light-hearted manner — those who have not assisted the development of this important industry and could do better."

The bill became the Digital Economy Act in April, after being fast-tracked through the legislative process in the so-called 'wash-up' period just prior to the election. ISPs strongly opposed the bill, which detailed a crackdown on unlawful file-sharing that will require the biggest ISPs to set up systems for identifying and notifying suspected copyright infringers.

After Lord Clement-Jones introduced amendment 120a — in order to make it possible for rights holders to force ISPs to block access to copyright-infringing websites — Lib Dem parliamentary candidate Bridget Fox successfully got her party's conference to support an internet freedom motion. Fox was subsequently unsuccessful in dislodging Labour's Emily Thornberry from her Islington South and Finsbury seat.

Labour's Watson, who was the first MP blogger and remains vocal on IT-related matters, was nominated for the internet hero award alongside "all those who showed up to vote against the DE [Digital Economy] Bill, for their informed opposition to the bill".

The government project is also a nominee for the hero award "for showing the value of datasets and how the public can utilise government information", as is the Zip It, Block It, Flag It internet safety campaign.

Another contender for the villain prize is ACS:Law, a legal firm that is being investigated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority for sending out hundreds of letters to people suspected of unlawful file-sharing. The letters demanded money to stop potential civil cases going to court.

The final nominee for the villain award is the European Commission and the Council of Ministers "for conducting (Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement) Acta negotiations in a secretive manner and for failing to engage with stakeholders on an issue that is of vital importance for Europe's digital economy". Acta, which is due for completion by the end of this year, is a global copyright enforcement treaty that was only published in draft form after intense pressure from activists and MEPs, who opposed the secrecy of its formulation.


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