Amendment 120A to the Digital Economy Bill was voted through the House of Lords yesterday that could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to block websites that are deemed to contain content that infringes copyright. Whilst this in itself isn't anything new (section 97A of the Copyright Act allows the same thing), 120A breaks the balance that currently exists under 97A between rightsowners and service providers, and shifts the bias in the favour of the former, which may scare ISPs in to having to act to avoid court action.
ISPA, a trade body for UK ISPs, is outraged that the amendment was voted through, and deem that this is negligent as the legal, technical and practical issues have not been debated in enough detail.
"ISPA has been supportive of Peers' excellent scrutiny of the Bill to date. However, in this instance, our members are extremely concerned that the full implications of the amendment have not been understood and that the reasoning behind the amendment is wholly misguided. We would therefore urge the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to urgently reconsider their position."Nicholas Lansman, (Secretary-General) ISPA
Concern is raised over the far reaching affects of this amendment which could lead to websites such as YouTube being blocked as they may contain videos including copyrighted material, although these kinds of sites wouldn't be the intended target.
"The intention is also for the injunction to only be possible for sites where there is a substantial proportion of infringing material that is either hosted by that particular site or is accessed through the particular site in question.
The injunction will only be granted where copyright owners had first requested ISP’s to block access to the site and where they had also requested the site operator to stop providing access to the infringing material (either by removing the material itself or removing the ability to access the material).
There already exists a remedy under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (section 97A) which grants copyright owners a broad power to apply to the Court for an injunction. Therefore, all amendment 120A does is enhance this power by giving copyright owners a more clearly defined route."Lord Clement-Jones
Full details of the amendment can be read on the Open Rights Group blog