Motion Picture Association heads to high court seeking to block website that allegedly distributes pirated material
guardian.co.uk, Monday 27 June 2011 11.11 BST
Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush in The King’s Speech – there are said to be more than 70 pirate versions available online. Photograph: Weinstein/Everett /Rex Features
Hollywood film studios will take their battle against illicit downloading to the high court in London on Tuesday in an attempt to force Britain’s largest internet service provider, BT, to block access to a website that allegedly distributes pirated material.
Backed by studios including Warner Bros, Fox, Disney and Paramount Pictures, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) – the international arm of the US film trade body, the MPAA – is trying to get BT to cut off access to Newzbin2, a website that allegedly links to hundreds of pirated movies and music.
Tuesday’s high court case will be the first in Britain where an attempt is being made to force internet providers to block sites under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act. If successful, the ruling will pave the way for more music and film companies to go to the courts seeking the controversial blocking orders.
Spyro Markesinis, the vice president of legal affairs for Momentum Pictures, the distributor of The King’s Speech, said there were 75 different versions of the Colin Firth movie on Newzbin2.
‘The survival of our business depends on the revenues we receive for our content,’ he said. ‘Our recent film, The King’s Speech, is available on the Newzbin2 website without our consent. Neither we, nor the filmmakers, receive anything for this.
‘Lost revenues not only threaten our business and our employees’ jobs but also mean we have less money to invest in new films, so the whole industry – and particularly the independent film business – is at risk. That’s why we fully support this action against Newzbin.’
The film industry’s fight against Newzbin stretches back to March last year, when the high court ordered the site to remove all of its pirated material and pay damages to the studios. The firm behind the website, Newzbin Ltd, went into administration shortly after the ruling. However, a clone site soon appeared operated anonymously from Sweden.
Chris Marcich – the MPA president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa – said the group had ‘no option’ but to take its fight against Newzbin to the courts.
‘Newzbin has no regard for UK law and it is unacceptable that it continues to infringe copyright on a massive and commercial scale when it has been ordered to stop by the high court,’ he said.
Separately, the communications minister, Ed Vaizey, is leading a series of discussions with rights holders about setting up a voluntary web blocking body to curb illicit filesharing. Under the plans, ISPs would block access to websites such as The Pirate Bay on a list drawn up by copyright owners.
BT declined to comment.
Newzbin2 claimed to be ‘infringing copyright on an enormous scale’
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 28 June 2011 14.16 BST
The website Newzbin2 is claimed to have 75 illicit versions of The King’s Speech. Photograph: Allstar/Sportsphoto
Colin Firth’s box office hit The King’s Speech is at the heart of a landmark court battle over online piracy between Hollywood film giants and Britain’s largest internet service provider, BT.
Major film studios, including Paramount Pictures and Disney, asked the high court in London on Tuesday to force BT to block access to the website Newzbin2, which they claim is ‘infringing copyright on an enormous scale’ – including 75 illicit versions of The King’s Speech.
The case is the first of its kind in Britain and could pave the way for the biggest clampdown on online piracy yet.
Hollywood studios argued in court that illicit filesharing was a ‘very significant social evil’ and is responsible for ’several hundreds of millions of pounds a year’ in lost revenue. The studios – represented by their international trade body, the Motion Picture Association (MPA) – want BT to cut off access to Newzbin2 for UK internet users in the same way that it blocks child abuse websites on the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) list.
However, BT claims that such a blocking order would be the ‘thin end of the wedge’ and there would be ‘nothing to stop countless other’ rights holders demanding that hundreds of other contentious websites are banned.
In its skeleton argument, BT claimed in the high court that rights groups would like to see about ‘400 sites a year’ blocked by internet providers. ‘Rights holders in the music and movie industries have already identified 100 copyright infringing websites which they would like to see blocked,’ the ISP said. ‘Claimants would seek orders blocking access to websites alleged to contain defamatory allegations or private and confidential information.’
Richard Spearman QC, acting on behalf of the film studios, told the court that if a blocking order is granted, they will demand that other UK ISPs, including TalkTalk and Virgin Media, also blacklist the website or face court action.
He told the court that there was now ‘no other way of impeding the infringement of copyright’ than to obtain a court order. ‘[Newzbin2] allows repeat and mammoth-scale copyright infringement,’ Spearman said. ‘If BT could not see that happening then they have to be the biggest ostrich in history.’
The offshore-based Newzbin2 has about 700,000 members, with annual turnover of more than £1m, according to the rights holders.
According to the rights holders, Newzbin2 currently helps distribute about 115,000 illegal versions of films and 320,000 TV shows.
The film industry’s fight against Newzbin stretches back to March last year, when the high court ordered the offshore-based site to remove all of its pirated material and pay damages to the studios.
However, the company behind the site, Newzbin Ltd, went into administration shortly after the ruling and avoided compensating the studios. Within weeks, clone site Newzbin2 appeared hosting similar material. The rights holders claim Newzbin2 has about 700,000 members, with an annual turnover of more than £1m.
Chris Marcich, the MPAA president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said: ‘Newzbin has no regard for UK law and it is unacceptable that it continues to infringe copyright on a massive and commercial scale when it has been ordered to stop by the high court.’
The case continues and the high court is expected to make a ruling this week.
By Renai LeMay, ZDNet.com.au on June 28th, 2011
Australia’s peak internet industry body, Internet Industry Association, has stated that its fledgling child pornography filtering scheme was not a form of censorship but was more akin to internet service providers (ISPs) cooperating with law enforcement authorities, and should not be compared with the Federal Government’s mandatory filtering policy.
The scheme — first outlined in detail yesterday — is expected to see most of Australia’s major ISPs voluntarily block a list of sites containing child pornography compiled by international policing agency, Interpol, with the assistance of the Australian Federal Police. The legal instrument for the scheme to go ahead is section 313 of Australia’s Telecommunications Act, which allows law enforcement to make reasonable requests for assistance from ISPs.
The framework has already been agreed to by Telstra and Optus, and most of Australia’s other major ISPs are expected to fall in line and implement the Interpol blacklist over the next year.
In an interview yesterday, Internet Industry Association (IIA) chief executive Peter Coroneos, who retires from his role this week, denied the Interpol filter would see a form of censorship reach Australia’s internet sector. ‘This is not censorship; this is law enforcement cooperation around material which is illegal to possess,’ he said. ‘We’ve been at pains to try and distance this initiative from the government’s mandatory filtering scheme.’
Coroneos highlighted a number of key differences between the IIA’s policy and Labor’s filter policy. For starters, he said, no new technology would need to be implemented in ISPs’ networks to block the Interpol list, although both policies would see a ‘block page’ displayed when a user tried to access a banned site. Instead, ISPs’ network routing tables would block access to the sites directly, with a list of the banned sites to be provided by Interpol through the AFP to the ISPs.
Optus yesterday confirmed that its DNS servers would be modified to block the Interpol list of sites. The block would also apply to the telco’s wholesale customers if they are using Optus’ DNS servers.
Secondly, the Interpol list would contain a much more limited set of sites to be blocked than the Federal Government’s scheme would affect. The Interpol list only contains several hundred sites, representing the agency’s ‘worst of’ list of sites containing media depicting children younger than 13 years in ’sexually exploitative’ situations. The images must also be of real people — sites that contain computer-generated or other created images are not included.
The Federal Government’s list is believed to contain several thousand sites in a range of categories of material that have been refused classification — not just child pornography, for example, but pro-rape sites, bestiality and sites that promote crime.
Coroneos said child pornography stood apart from other categories of content in that it was ‘almost universally illegal’ and ‘beyond a question of taste and culture’. In his discussions with civil libertarians, he said child pornography had always been discussed as a separate category.
In addition, the executive said it was important that Interpol provided the blacklist, as it was only by having an international law enforcement agency administer such a list that ‘we can finally get over the idea that it’s only the Australian Government telling people what they can and can’t see’.
The executive pointed out that the Interpol list had been in use in other jurisdictions — in Europe, for example — for the best part of a decade. The Federal Government’s filter policy would see its own much larger list administered by a civil authority — the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) — instead of a law enforcement agency like Interpol.
There are also other important differences between the way the two blacklists are compiled and administered.
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last year announced a series of transparency and accountability measures that would be added to the government’s filter policy, such as an annual review of the ACMA’s blacklist by an independent expert, clear avenues of appeal for classification decisions, and policies around how material would be added to the list. At the time, Conroy acknowledged that some sections of the community had expressed concern about whether the range of material currently included in the Refused Classification category correctly reflected current community standards.
In comparison, the administration of the Interpol list appears to be less transparent for civilians. If a site owner believes their site has been wrongfully classified on the Interpol list, they must contact Interpol directly through its website, or alternatively the Australian Federal Police, to seek a review.
The much larger blacklist administered by the ACMA is believed to have suffered false positives, with the websites of a Queensland dentist, a school tuckshop and a boarding kennel organisation for animals being listed in what appeared to be a leak of the list in 2009.
Coroneos was not able to say what legal instrument Australians would be able to use to appeal such decisions, although he noted that similar cases involving law enforcement under the Telecommunications Act, such as wrongful interception of telephone calls, could be handled under that existing legislation. There had been ‘no evidence’ over the previous seven years that the list had been operational of sites being wrongfully included on it, he said.
For a site to get on the list, it must be reviewed manually by at least two independent law enforcement agencies. While Coroneos said there was only ‘an infinitesimal risk’ that a site could be misclassified, he noted that if it became evident during the operation of the scheme that sites were being wrongfully blocked, then the IIA would commit to introducing further accountability measures.
The government’s policy has also been criticised in the past on the grounds that it doesn’t address the internet avenues where trading of most illegal material is believed to actually take place — through peer-to-peer file sharing, private forums and even virtual private network connections. Coroneos acknowledged the limitations of the IIA’s policy, but said the IIA’s code was about balance.
‘What we’re trying to do is strike a balance between trying to protect the victims of child abuse, freeing up police time and also having the content removed at the servers, where they’re being hosted internationally,’ he said.
The executive acknowledged the IIA didn’t currently have any evidence that Australians were accidentally browsing to the offensive sites containing child pornography. ‘I don’t have any evidence that it hasn’t occurred, either,’ he said. ‘We don’t position this as the primary reason that we’re doing it.’ The executive highlighted research that shows blocking broad exposure to offensive material was one factor in halting the development of child predators in society.
Asked what measures would be in place to stop the ISPs’ use of the Interpol blacklist from being extended by the government into a much wider filtering system blocking material in the Refused Classification category, Coroneos said such things would be up to the government.
‘There is nothing to stop the government passing any law on any subject matter, other than the parliamentary process itself,’ he said. Under current parliamentary numbers, the government appears unlikely to be able to get the filter policy across the line — with both the Coalition and the Greens having pledged to vote down the associated filter legislation if it was introduced.
‘We’re hopeful that when political parties see the efforts that industry parties are taking to address the most serious types of abuse, that this will remove a lot of the heat from the current political debate,’ said Coroneos.
By Renai LeMay, ZDNet.com.au on June 27th, 2011
The association representing Australia’s internet industry today claimed that 80 to 90 per cent of Australians would have their internet connections filtered for child pornography this year, following the release of an industry code in July that will focus on a blacklist of sites supplied by international policing agency, Interpol.
‘We anticipate that we will have ISPs [internet service providers] representing between 80 to 90 per cent of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year,’ said Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos in a statement today announcing the imminent finalisation of the code. Both Telstra and Optus have already signed up to support the effort.
Neither Coroneos nor other spokespeople from the IIA have been available today to clarify which ISPs have signed up so far to block Interpol’s list of sites.
The news follows the revelation on Saturday that Telstra was close to achieving internal executive sign-off for its own proposal to filter child pornography. The news represented the first time that the Interpol blacklist had been named in public as a filter focus for ISPs.
Previously, ISPs Telstra, Optus and Primus had proposed to filter a blacklist of child pornography sites developed by the Australian Communications and Media Authority.
The Interpol list is believed to have been in use for a number of years, with telcos such as BT, O2 and Virgin blocking access to URLs for some time. It is believed to be a more limited list, with tighter restrictions on how sites are listed, than the ACMA blacklist.
For a site to get onto the list, it is believed that law enforcement agencies in at least two separate jurisdictions have to validate the entry and must be illegal, not just objectionable. In addition, the age of children depicted through content on the sites must be younger than 13 years of age, or perceived to be less than 13.
Under the IIA’s scheme, ISPs which use the Interpol list to block access to child pornography would be doing so in accordance with what the IIA today dubbed ‘a legal request for assistance’ under Australia’s existing Telecommunications Act (section 313). Because of this, and unlike the wider mandatory filtering scheme, the IIA believes that no new legislation will be required to implement its Interpol-focused framework.
Those who attempt to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked, and users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme. Those who believe their site has been blocked unfairly will be able to complain to the Australian Federal Police or Interpol itself and ask for a review.
‘The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue,’ the IIA said.
The IIA believes that a voluntary code focusing on Interpol will bring Australia into line with Scandinavia and Europe on prohibiting access to child pornography. ‘While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography, and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference,’ Coroneos said this morning.
However, it remains unclear to what extent Australia’s ISPs will actually implement the voluntary code promulgated by the IIA. The nation’s largest ISPs Telstra and Optus have already committed to filtering their traffic for child pornography, and both are now on board with the IIA’s policy.
You might be interested in:
Primus on fence over voluntary filter
Telstra proposes to filter Interpol blacklist
Aussie voluntary filter gains global attention
‘Optus can confirm that it will honour its commitment to block child sexual abuse material on the web,’ said Optus general manager of regulatory compliance Gary Smith in a statement this afternoon. ‘Optus will work with the AFP to implement the Interpol ‘Worst of’ list — an approach which blocks the worst of the worst child sexual abuse material.’
‘This is a safe, credible and tested approach which has been implemented in other countries with proven results. Optus will work with the IIA and other ISPs to develop a code based on the framework released today by the IIA.’
However, when asked about the issue, this morning both iiNet and Internode reiterated that they would comply with the law when it came to filtering content for their user base. ‘As always, Internode’s position is that it will continue to do what it is lawfully obliged to do,’ the ISP said.
‘Throughout the filtering debate, iiNet has maintained it would always cooperate with law enforcement agencies,’ iiNet said.
It is not clear yet whether iiNet and Internode will support the IIA model.
Primus, which had initially signed on to support the voluntary filter in mid-2010, has indicated that it is still considering whether to go ahead with the proposal. Other major ISPs such as TPG have not yet responded to a request for comment.
Australian Internet industry moves on blocking child pornography
Monday, 27 June 2011
The Internet Industry Association today announced the framework that would underpin its imminent code relating to child abuse materials.
The voluntary industry code of practice for ISPs in Australia would entail blocking child pornography sites which would otherwise be available to Australians. It would rely on a blocklist compiled and supplied by Interpol, in cooperation with the Australian Federal Police (‘AFP’).
Consistent with industry commitments made almost 12 months ago to develop a voluntary industry program to block child abuse materials, the IIA announced the final elements of the scheme were moving into place in preparation for a launch of the code in July.
IIA member ISPs in Australia have confirmed their intentions to support a code based approach.
‘We anticipate that we will have ISPs representing between 80-90% of the Australian user base complying with the scheme this year,’ said IIA’s chief executive Peter Coroneos.
Elements of the scheme
The scheme will be limited to child abuse sites supplied by Interpol
Interpol sets out the criteria for list inclusion as follows:
The children are real. Sites containing only computer generated, morphed, drawn or pseudo images are not included.
The ages of the children depicted in sexually exploitative situations are (or appear to be) younger than 13 years.
The abuses are considered by Interpol to be severe constituting the ‘worst of the worst’ activities involving children.
ISPs who block access to sites would be doing so in accordance with a legal request for assistance under Australia’s existing Telecommunications Act (section 313); no new laws will be required to implement this scheme
Browsers which have attempted to access blocked sites will be directed to an Interpol page explaining why the site has been blocked;
Because of the possibility of accidental access to blocked sites, users will not be tracked or reported under the scheme.
Accuracy and accountability
The list of sites is compiled on the basis of manual checks by police whose experience shows that child sexual abuse material is normally not co-hosted with legal material; it usually resides on specific domains created for the sole purpose of distributing the files. The domains have been reviewed and found to fulfill the above criteria by at least two independent agencies. Users who believe a page is incorrectly blocked can refer the request to AFP/Interpol for review. The current role of the ACMA in receiving complaints from Australian users will continue.
Expected outcomes from the scheme
Both industry and law enforcement agencies recognise that these measures will not stop all child abuse material distribution, but will still achieve a number of significant outcomes, including:
limiting ‘revictimisation’ of children whose images of abuse have been circulated online
freeing police resources for victim and criminal identification and deleting the material from the hosting service, rather than handling reports about the content itself
preventing accidental and unwanted exposure to child abuse materials, the possession of which is a criminal offence in most jurisdictions including Australia
making deliberate access to illegal web based material more difficult
bringing Australian into line with best practice internationally.
‘While we fundamentally maintain the internet is predominantly safe and useful, we acknowledge community and law enforcement concerns about access to illegal materials online, particularly child pornography and so we are taking these practical steps to help make a positive difference’
‘We have considered the alternatives and have come to the view that a voluntary industry code by which ISPs agree to block child pornography sites once notified by the police is the best way forward.’
‘This move will bring Australia into alignment with Scandinavia and Europe.’
‘Our initiative will complement other work that individual companies and the IIA have developed to ensure the internet remains a safe and rewarding experience for all Australians.’
By Renai LeMay
Tuesday, 28 June 2011 15:40
Digital rights lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia has panned the efficacy of the Internet Industry Association’s planned industry-wide child pornography filter, describing it as ’security theatre’ that wouldn’t actually make much difference to the ability of police to enforce the law.
From: Australian IT
June 28, 2011 10:32AM
THE Australian Federal Police has started preparing its first ISP censorship notices under a voluntary internet filtering scheme targeting online child abuse material.
The voluntary filter program appeared to be in trouble late last week as Telstra wavered on the commitment it gave the federal government to support the scheme last July.
However, yesterday the carrier confirmed it would commit to a scheme to block a narrowly focused list of material maintained by Interpol and vetted by the AFP.
Optus also confirmed that it would comply with the scheme based on the Interpol list but that it would not start blocking sites until late July.
The Internet Industry Association (IIA) also revealed a framework for an industry-wide scheme based on the Interpol list.
IIA chief Peter Coroneos said that the scheme would draw for the first time on provisions of the Telecommunications Act that, to date, have only been used for investigating terrorism and major crimes.
The AFP was preparing to notify ISPs of the list of sites containing child abuse material they would be asked to block under the voluntary scheme, Grant Edwards, investigations manager at the AFP’s High Tech Crime Operations said.
‘The AFP is in the process of issuing a number of ISPs under section 313 of Telecommunications Act 1997,’ Mr Edwards said in a statement yesterday.
Optus said it would honour its commitment to block the list.
‘This is a safe, credible and tested approach which has been implemented in other countries with proven results,’ a spokesman for Optus said.
‘The internet is now a primary channel for sharing child sexual abuse material and Telstra believes the telecommunications industry has a responsibility to do what it can to limit this distribution,’ a Telstra spokeswoman said.
However, ISPs including iiNet, Internode and Primus Telecom remained reticent about committing to the scheme.
iiNet regulatory chief Steve Dalby declined to comment on the scheme. Internode regulatory chief John Lindsay also declined to comment. Ravi Bhatia, chief of Primus Telecom, one of the original ISPs to enter discussions with government on the scheme, said he ‘more important things to think about.’
Privately some ISPs that have yet to register their support for the scheme said they still feared that the scope of the filter may widen.
Civil liberties groups said they were supportive of the government’s stance on blocking child pornography but feared an internet filtering scheme to be adopted by Australia’s two major carrier’s next month targeting child pornography will sweep online child sexual abuse problems under the rug.
Civil Liberties Australia director Tim Vines said he was concerned that the agencies directly enforcing child abuse laws would be ignored.
‘The production of this material and the abuse of children is ultimately a behavioural issue will not be addressed censorship. If the government is serious about cracking down on child pornography it needs to be diverting additional resources to police,’ Mr Vines said.
Bernadette McMenamin, chief executive of child protection advocacy Child Wise, said that the filter’s imperfections were not reason enough to criticise the scheme. ‘Ordinary Australians’ were not among the elite hackers that would be able to circumvent the filter she said.
‘You’ll always have savvy people who will get around filters. We’re never going to stop child pornography completely but we can reduce it,’ Ms McMenamin said.
A document labelled confidential was recently sent to James Firth’s blog and ultimately posted on Open Rights Group detailing a proposal by some industry interests to pressure British ISPs to participate in a ‘voluntary’ site blocking system.The documents describe this system as an ‘approach to inhibiting access to websites that are substantially focused upon infringement of copyright.’There’s plenty of reason to be concerned and one of the main reason to be concerned is that public policy is being decided behind closed doors. This isn’t too dissimilar to when copyright organizations tried pushing for many controversial provisions in the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Everything about it was being planned behind closed doors. The only reason anyone heard about it early on was because Wikileaks blew the lid off of the secrecy surrounding ACTA back in 2008. This led to a major outcry from individuals and human rights groups alike to question the bill.It seems this ‘voluntary’ Great Firewall of Britain won’t be any different. Many of the criticisms directed at ACTA could be directed at this proposal including, ‘Was the proposal so bad that they had to hide it to avoid any kind of scrutiny?’There are other reasons to be concerned besides the questionable action of keeping this secret. Firth provided the following quote and response:
‘Evidence should also be submitted to show the urgency with which the measures are sought to inform any balance that needs to be struck by the expert body and the Court between the need for swift action and the need for sufficient evidence.’
This is very worrying indeed. Whilst the document talks about evidence gathering, ‘prior notification and liberty;’ it also talks about a turn-around time quick enough for ‘live events’ and a balance between swift action and evidence.The language used reads like copyright protection is being sold as more important than due process under law. In any case, I can’t imagine a technical solution that would allow ISPs to implement an effective block within the time scale of a ‘live event’, irrespective of the time it takes a court to act.So it’s not surprising that digital rights champions the Open Rights Group were locked out, despite hearing of the meeting in advance and putting in a request to attend
The Open Rights Group also expressed deep concern for this proposal:
The documents, sent to James Firth’s blog, set out a dangerous voluntary scheme that would involve ‘expedited court procedures’ and a ‘balance’ between evidence and speed of action. Definitions of what content is to be judged blockable is scarce. References to exactly how such blocking would work, and the consequences, are non-existent. The case for blocking is left unmade, with no analysis about the effects of such measures. There is cursory reference to the rule of law and proper oversight. The proposal, if it is the genuine proposal, adds up to a dangerous revocation of the rule of law where lobby groups would decide what you are allowed to see and read.
The Open Rights Group then referenced a recent Rapporteur which sounded an ‘alarm’ over such measures. They also encouraged British citizens to contact their MP to get them to ’sign EDM 1913, which calls for the government to take on board what the UN have said and reconsider the Digital Economy Act and its many proposed website blocking schemes.’The full document is currently being hosted by the Open Rights Group for those interested in reading the proposal.I doubt that an ISP could ever prevent every user from accessing a blocked website. All it really takes it the right proxy to access it.Do you think website blocking will ever be fully possible or is it a bad idea?Have a tip? Want to contact the author? You can do so by sending a PM via the forums or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.”
Cory Doctorow at 2:46 AM Wednesday, Jun 22, 2011
A group of UK copyright lobbyists held confidential, closed-door meetings with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries to discuss a plan to allow industry groups to censor the Internet in the UK. The proposal has leaked, and it reveals a plan to establish “expert bodies” that would decide which websites British people were allowed to see, to be approved by a judge using a “streamlined” procedure. The procedure will allow for “swift” blocking in order to shut down streaming of live events.
Public interest groups like the Open Rights Group asked to attend the meeting, but were shut out, presaging a regulatory process that’s likely to be a lopsided, industry-centric affair that doesn’t consider the public. The process is characterised as “voluntary,” but the proposal makes reference to the Digital Economy Act, which allows for mandatory web-blocking (thanks to the action of LibDem Lords who submitted a proposal written by a record industry lobbyist as an amendment to the DEA).
The Open Rights Group has a campaign to repeal the DEA that you can sign onto.
We would like confirmation from the government that these are genuine proposals which they are actively considering. We would also like to know what steps they will be taking to consider the views of organisations such as Open Rights Group, and those others who recently wrote to rights holders expressing their concern and requesting such proposals are made public.
So far these discussions have involved only rightsholders and Internet companies, with only in the most recent meeting involving Consumer Focus. (As Jim blogged yesterday, Consumer Focus’ response to the proposals they discussed is here). This is a welcome concession. But it is a concession. Open policy making that takes on board the broadest range of views is not something within the gift of politicians but a responsibility they bear.
According to a UN report published in May and set to be adopted today, tough provisions in the UK’s Digital Economy Act and and France’s ‘Hadopi’ legislation breach human rights.
The Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression details concern for measures being put in place by various governments to punish online copyright infringement. In many cases those measures include the draconian step of denying citizens’ Internet access.
‘While blocking and filtering measures deny users access to specific content on the Internet, States have also taken measures to cut off access to the Internet entirely,’ says the report.
‘The Special Rapporteur considers cutting off users from Internet access, regardless of
the justification provided, including on the grounds of violating intellectual property rights law, to be disproportionate and thus a violation of article 19, paragraph 3, of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’
The report highlights the so-called 3 strikes-style schemes adopted by France and the UK, noting that the author of the report, Frank La Rue, is ‘alarmed’ by proposals to severely punish Internet users if they violate intellectual property rights.
‘This also includes legislation based on the concept of ‘graduated response’, which imposes a series of penalties on copyright infringers that could lead to suspension of Internet service, such as the so-called ‘three-strikes-law’ in France and the Digital Economy Act 2010 of the United Kingdom,’ notes the report.
In addition to calling on governments to maintain Internet access ‘during times of political unrest,’ the report goes on to urge States to change copyright laws, not in favor of the music and movie industries as has been the recent trend, but in keeping with citizens’ rights.
‘In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges States to repeal or amend existing intellectual copyright laws which permit users to be disconnected from Internet access, and to refrain from adopting such laws,’ the report adds.
Whether or not the report will carry any influence with these so-far stubborn governments remains to be seen, but the Open Rights Group are keeping up the pressure on Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt. ORG have written to Hunt asking for his reaction to the Special Rapporteur’s report and his recommendation that the Digital Economy Act’s disconnection provisions should be repealed.