Daily Archives: August 3, 2011

Censoring the Internet

In August, earlier this year, Vince Cable announced the Government’s response to the Hargreaves Review aka the Google review into intellectual property law. Some of the IT companies and many economists, including Google strongly believe that the current intellectual property laws in the UK inhibit innovation and persuaded Cameron to launch a review into the intellectual property laws which published its report “Digital Opportunity, A review of intellectual property and growth” earlier in the year.

The Government plan to accept all the proposals in the report and while they plan to study the proposal for  a digital rights exchange they plan to adopt the rest of the report. The headline changes are that format shifting i.e. copying your CD’s and DVDs onto mp3 and mobile dvd players and sharing within a family will now be legal, and satirists will not need to pay royalties.

In his speech, Cable also stated that they planned to shelve the web site blocking clauses of the Digital Economy Act, since they were “unworkable”. This was a couple of days after the UK courts had injuncted BT to block a “Usenet” index site, newzbin2, which pointed to and enabled the download of unauthorised copyrighted digital content. The success of the injunction is based partly on the judged complicity of the site in copyright infringement, but the court hearing has convinced the Government, if not copyright holders that the additional DE Act provisions are not required, since the current law provides right holders with a court supervised route to blocking web sites. Ofcom also recommend that these clauses of the DE Act are unenforceable.

This must come as a huge relief to the Liberal Democrats, one of whose peers introduced the web site blocking clauses in the House of Lords having been drawn like moths to a lamp to Lord Mandelson’s original proposals that would have allowed the Government to vary copyright law using “Orders in Council”. Ever since the web blocking clauses were introduced into the then Bill, albeit amended by the then Labour government, the Liberal Democrats have opposed these clauses, seemingly to the exclusion of opposition to the “3 Strikes” clauses. The Liberal Democrat amendment during the House of Commons debate was to delete the “Site Blocking” clauses. During the 2010 election, Nick Clegg promised the repeal of the DE Act if they won the election, but it’s not in the Coalition agreement. The Liberal Democrat parliamentary party has never seemed as committed to opposing all the provisions of the DE Bill as has their conference and some leading activists. It seems the Tory led government have no plans to back down on the 3 Strikes clauses. They are planning that ISPs will write to the first tranche of allegedly infringing customers next year. They have also decided that the potentially innocent will need to pay a returnable deposit of £20 to appeal first notices. (This is to stop the frivolous. Also having described it as a returnable deposit, it doesn’t seem   … » Read more …