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If you thought consensus had broken out over how ISPs should tackle illegal downloading, think again. Though many service providers were now on board with basic principles of monitoring consumers’ online activity and warning them about freeloading, a new measure introduced to the Digital Economy Bill on Monday has again made fundamental opposition a feature of the debate…
— New blocking measure: Responding to concern that Clause 17 would have given Lord Mandelson sweeping powers to amend future copyright law as is seen fit, the government (in Amendment 120A) proposed scrapping the portion in favour of a new measure that would allow the High Court to issue injunctions that force ISPs to block access to services hosting infringing content. The House Of Lords, currently debating the bill at report stage before it goes to the Commons, adopted the amendment to the bill.
— Web giants oppose: Cue an outcry from 17 of the most influential internet companies, including Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Facebook, Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) and leading ISPs. Writing in the FT, they lament “very poor lawmaking”: “(It) would both widely disrupt the internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended.”
— Big Music likes it: But the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) trade group, responding to that letter via press release, accuses the group of “pure scaremongering”. It reckons the new measure is “a clear and sensible mechanism to deal with illegal websites”.
The government’s Liberal Democrat Lord Clement-Jones , who is steering the DEB through the Lords, told the house: “This remedy would stop the supply of illegal content by blocking it at source. … there are several websites, many of which are based outside the UK, which refuse to stop supplying access to illegal content.” Read his full justification.
The astute amongst you may remember that the BPI warned in December about exactly this issue – that much illegal activity occurs via websites, not just P2P services. So the government may be replacing Mandelson’s controversial Clause 17, but it’s replacing it with an idea suggested directly by the music business.
The bill’s spotlight proposal would see ISPs institute one of a range of “technical measures” against customers. To avoid the ethics argument, the government could have added site blocking to the list of measures.
Perhaps the spikiest part of the amendment is this – ISPs would have to pay copyright owners back the cost of their injunction application, thereby incentivising ISPs to block services even before injunctions are set to fly.