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 Government re-introduces controversial site-blocking powers

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PostSubject: Government re-introduces controversial site-blocking powers   Thu Apr 01, 2010 3:49 am

Mandelson's letter

The propsed Amendment.

Courts will be able to force ISPs to block all UK access to websites that are suspected of being involved, or even likely to be involved, in copyright infringing behaviour under just-published Government plans.

The Government has amended the controversial Digital Economy Bill to adopt many of the measures previously proposed by Conservative and Liberal peers but later withdrawn. One expert has said that the plans give courts the power to block "any site on the internet'".
A new Clause 18 to the Bill has been proposed by the Business Secretary Peter Mandelson allowing ministers in the future to introduce the power for courts to order ISPs to block access to websites or internet locations involved in alleged copyright infringement.
But internet law academic Lilian Edwards has said that the measures are structured in a way that would lead to ISPs blocking sites without a court order and only on the basis of allegations, not on proof of wrongdoing.
"My principle worry [with the previous proposals] was that the safeguards on court orders … would in fact be entirely irrelevant, as requests would simply be made for ISPs to block by rightsholders, without any need to go to court," siad Lilian Edwards, , Professor of Internet Law at Sheffield University, in a blog post. "If they refused to block on demand, and things went to court, all the costs of the action would be dumped on the ISP – despite the fact they are merely piggy in the middle here between rightsholder and alleged infringing site."
"Mandelson pledges in his open letter that this has now been changed in the interests of due process. To quote, 'ISPs should not be expected to pay court costs'," said Edwards. "But if you look at the actual regulations, all it says … is that there may be regulations to this effect. Or there may not… It will be left to courts to develop their own rules – and who knows how that might go?".
Edwards also said that the terms used in this version of the clause gave it a wider application than in the version proposed by the Conservative and Liberal party peers because it referred to sites or internet locations at which material is or "is likely to" be being made available.
"In essence this is a power in principle to block any site on the Internet, any search engine and any P2P client site, however legal," she said.
There was widespread opposition to the initial plan to force ISPs to block websites that might be used in copyright-infringing activity and the peers behind it dropped the proposal. There are fears, though, that this proposal may not receive the same kind of scrutiny in the House of Commons that the previous proposal did in the House of Lords.
The announcement of the general election is expected next Tuesday, at which point Parliament will be suspended. Pending legislation will then be subject to an inter-party horse-trading process called 'the wash up' to determine which Bills can pass and with what changes.
Giving power to the courts to order ISPs to block access to sites has been opposed by civil liberties but also by web publishers, ISPs and other internet businesses.
Bosses from BT, Virgin Media, Orange, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo! and other companies voiced their opposition when the plan was put forward in the House of Lords. They said it had "obvious shortcomings" and "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", according to a letter they wrote to the Financial Times.
In his letter to his opposition counterpart Lord Mandelson said that his proposal was an improvement on that heard in the Lords because it involved a consultation period before the measure was introduced; that there would have to be debate about it in Parliament before the regulations were introduced; and that the courts would have to take into account the effect any blocking would have on freedom of speech.
Mandelson said that the amendment would be tabled next Tuesday after the Bill's second reading in the House of Commons.

See my other topic on this subject, for the link to sign the petition.
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PostSubject: Re: Government re-introduces controversial site-blocking powers   Thu Apr 08, 2010 9:53 am

The digital economy bill and you

By Ian Dunt Thursday April 8, 2010 05:28 am PDT

Last night, MPs voted through the digital economy bill. There were only a few MPs in the Commons, but on the internet thousands of people's tempers were at boiling point. But what does the bill mean to the average internet user or even, let's whisper it, file-sharer?
Well, not as much as you might think, given the hyperbole whipped up in all corners of the internet. There are matters of principle at stake and many internet users were dismayed to see MPs settle so quickly and firmly on the side of copyright holders rather than users. But in terms of practical effects on their day-to-day activity, the issues are limited.

Ofcom will now be tasked with setting a standard for the level of evidence required to begin an action against a copyright infringer. In this case, the copyright infringer is basically someone downloading Pirates of the Caribbean from a file-sharing site, like BitTorrent or Pirate Bay.

The evidence itself will not point to the individual, but to their location. Copyright holders, such as record or film companies, will hire private detecting agencies to look on torrent sites, detect where material is coming from and then send a list of IP addresses to the relevant internet service provider (ISP). The ISP will keep a record of the number of incidents and once it hits a certain level (yet to be decided) it will send a letter. A level above that will trigger another letter. And then, on the third strike, the internet connection will be suspended.

We don't know how long for, yet. The suggestion is that it would be something like a week, but if record companies decide that's not working they'll presumably ask for more.

The new system will put a commercial pressure on torrent services to provide software which helps customers evade detection. In Sweden, the use of encryption and anonymisation technology has shot up since a similar regulation was put in place. Japan experienced the same story in similar circumstances.

Internet users can purchase ISP proxies or encryption technologies for about £5 a month, which basically make it look as if the user is coming from another country. There are plenty of anonymous peer-to-peer technologies which are free to use and easily found on the internet. Many internet users were upset to see several MPs speak last night on a subject which they seemed less than familiar with, but that factor is also on their side: once again, the law is trying to catch up with technology, and failing.

That doesn't remove the political opposition to the bill. For such a controversial and important piece of law, many MPs and members of the public were horrified to see it forced through so quickly. "This is an utter disgrace," said Jim Killock, of the Open Rights Group. "This is an attack on everyone's right to communicate, work and gain an education. Politicians have shown themselves to be incompetent and completely out of touch with an entire generation's values."

The bill got through because of Tory support, a fact Peter Mandelson avoided this morning when he attacked the party for watering it down. "The digital economy legislation has survived but the Tories have made changes that will make the task of building our digital economy in this country somewhat harder. It just shows they do not get it about business, about industry and what we need to do in this country to invest in infrastructure, new technology strengths if we're going to make them pay our way in the global economy in coming decades. The blow they have tried to strike against the digital economy legislation shows they just do not get it on what we need to do to build up the industries of the future."

Whichever way you look at it, last night did not paint a reassuring picture of democracy. MPs were hurried into the Commons by the whips to vote on a bill in which they had not actually sat to listen to the debate, which anyway took place in double-quick time so the law could be secured by the time of the election. Many internet users won't be happy about that. But when it comes to avoiding the consequences of the bill, the path ahead may be easier than they expected.

Biggest pile of crap Parliament has voted on, and it only did this as it is closing down in readiness for the Elections. It was hurried through and not thought through even some members and those who were commissioned to do reports were against it. The general public had overwhelming voted against the bill. Just goes to show how little Parliament listens to those of us who pay their goddamn over blown wages. Bunch of hypocrites.

Having earlier checked my location from my previous ip address I am in Manchester. Woohoo, just goes to show how off this bill is. Whichmeans all those in Manchester will be receiving letters.

The whole Pirate networks going to go underground or the isps have got one hell of a task proving you downloaded copyright material as it doesn't show up as illegal it shows up a part of a file among many others they can't actually see what the data is. wHich one ISP had written on its website in support of having this bill thrown out.
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PostSubject: Re: Government re-introduces controversial site-blocking powers   Fri Apr 09, 2010 3:08 am

The Digital Economy Bill has been passed by the House of Commons and will become law before the general election. The Bill was passed amidst criticisms from inside and outside of Parliament about the lack of Parliamentary time and debate given to it.

The Bill was designed to implement last summer's Digital Britain Report, itself the result of a long and extensive research and consultation process. Its most controversial proposals, though, were added in later without such consultation.
Business Secretary Lord Mandelson is widely believed to have been behind the insertion into the Bill of a provision to cut off the internet access to households where one user has been accused of copyright infringing behaviour.
The power for ministers to force internet service providers (ISPs) to disconnect households or businesses has been controversial and digital rights groups have attacked the fact that it can be carried out without court oversight under the plans.
Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers introduced a clause allowing for the blocking of websites which were being used for mass copyright infringement when the law was debated in the House of Lords.
Though they retracted that amendment, the Government proposed a very similar one soon after which extends to the blocking of online locations that are 'likely to' be used for infringement.
Neither of these proposals, seen by activists as the most damaging to the rights of web users, were in the original Digital Britain Report.
"This is an utter disgrace. This is an attack on everyone's right to communicate, work and gain an education," said Jim Killock, executive director of protest group the Open Rights Group. "Politicians have shown themselves to be incompetent and completely out of touch with an entire generation's values."
The Bill was passed in an accelerated and truncated Parliamentary process called the 'wash up', used when a general election has been announced to rush legislation through before the break up of Parliament.
The wash up can only be used for unopposed legislation, and in return for their support the Conservative Party demanded the exclusion of Clause 43 from the Bill. This related to orphan works – copyrighted material whose owner cannot be identified or found – and was opposed by photographers, who feared it would permit their work to be used without their permission or without payment.
Clause 18, which contained the website-blocking proposal, was removed and its content relocated to a new Clause 1 of the Bill.
The Bill had its second reading in the Commons on Tuesday, and yesterday had both its Committee stage and third reading in the Commons, where it was passed by 189 votes to 47, largely through the votes of MPs who had not attended the debate.
Other Government plans that were taken out of laws passing through the wash up process included the funding from the licence fee of new news consortia in the regions and its plans to impose a £6 per year phone line tax to pay for the building of a superfast broadband network.
Minister Stephen Timms told the House of Commons that if re-elected the Government would reinstate the phone line tax after the election.

Yesterday's announcement of a general election next month has put this highly-controversial Bill on a fast-track process where it does not belong. It is likely to be passed tonight as part of this process which is known as 'wash up'.
'Wash up' refers to the last few days of a Parliament, after the election has been announced but before dissolution. Bills not passed before the dissolution are lost – so in the wash up period, outstanding bills that are unopposed are rushed through. It suits uncontroversial laws. It does not suit a law like the Digital Economy Bill.
Of the country's 643 MPs, just 40 turned up for yesterday's Second Reading, of whom only 10 stayed throughout proceedings, according to a critic who kept count . The whole thing was watched on Parliament Live TV and participants were silently heckled by more than 5,000 Twitter users.
The Digital Economy Bill introduces powers that may see households disconnected from the internet on accusations of file-sharingand websites blocked by British ISPs because they stand accused of copyright infringment.
Coffee shops, airports and hotels are also given reason to rethink their Wi-Fi services. "It cannot be right for us to cut off the whole of Starbucks just because one person went in for a cup of coffee and illegally shared files," observed Conservative MP John Whittingdale last night.
The arguments for and against these measures received short shrift in Parliament. It seems that passing the Bill before next month's general election has taken priority over what the thing actually says. Each party acknowledges that the Bill is being rushed yet it seems that nothing will stand in its way.
Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt called the Bill "a weak, dithering and incompetent attempt to breathe life into Britain's digital economy", while shadow science and innovation minister Adam Afriyie referred to the bill as "botched legislation".
But Hunt will not oppose the Bill. He explained that if the Conservatives come to power in May, his party will fix any problems with the Bill, "if it turns out that the legislation is flawed." In wash up, he is seeking only changes to clauses on orphan works, regional broadcasting and Ofcom's powers.
The Liberal Democrats, who said last month that the Bill should be scrapped and reintroduced in the next Parliament, had just one representative at last night's debate, Don Foster.
The MP for Bath expressed concern about the technical measures that the Bill enables, i.e. the powers to disconnect users. But his solution is broadly the same as Hunt's.
"The next Parliament deserves to be given the maximum opportunity to scrutinise any such proposals," said Foster. The Lib Dems will back the Bill tonight if they can get that assurance and others (they want a planned consultation process for the site blocking measures extended to the disconnection powers; and they want extra safeguards for Wi-Fi operators).
The text of the five-hour debate (243-page PDF) makes for a disheartening read. It's like a case study in how to pass bad law in a hurry. Whatever you think of this Bill, it presents a significant change to digital rights and remedies in the UK. It deserves proper debate and proper scrutiny. It should not be passed.
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