Government drops website blocking

Internet router The Digital Economy Act contains provisions to cut off websites that broke copyright law

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Plans to block websites that host copyright infringing material are to be dumped by the government.

Business secretary Vince Cable announced the change following a review of the policy by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Website blocking was one of the key provision contained in the Digital Economy Act.

Internet Service Providers had objected to the idea that copyright owners could compel them to cut off some sites.

In the past week, the Motion Picture Association - a group representing film studios - successfully applied for a court injunction requiring BT to block access to an infringing website called Newzbin2.

The action was taken without using the Digital Economy Act, prompting some observers to question the need for the legislation.

Speaking to the BBC, Vince Cable appeared to suggest that the Newzbin2 case had opened up other legal avenues.

"We've discovered that the drafting of the original laws, which took place a year or so ago, were not tight.

"There are test cases being fought in the courts, so we're looking at other ways of achieving the same objective, the blocking objective to protect intellectual property in those cases, but in a way that's legally sound."

The government's decision to drop the DEA's blocking provision was criticised by UK Music, the body which represents musicians and record labels in the UK.

Its chief executive, Fergal Sharkey said: "Who wants to tell the 80% of music businesses that employ fewer than five people, and the thousands of artists who self-finance the production of their own albums, that to enjoy the protection of the law, all they need now is to have millions of pounds and spend years in court to protect their work."

Legal ripping

Mr Cable also announced a raft of measures intended to update the UK's copyright laws.

The changes are based on the Hargreaves Review which was set up to examine current legislation's fitness for purpose in the digital age.

One of the most significant recommendations that the government plans to implement is the legalisation of "format shifting" - where users rip content from CDs or DVDs for their own personal use.

"We are talking about big changes," said Mr Cable.

"Bringing the laws more up-to-date to have a proper balance which allows consumers and businesses to operate more freely, but at the same time protect genuinely creative artists and penalise pirates."

The business secretary said the economy would benefit by £8bn over the next few years by updating the legislation.

'Not very good law'

Millions of people regularly convert movies on DVDs and music on CDs into a format that they can move around more easily, although most do not realise that it is technically illegal.

"The review pointed out that if you have a situation where 90% of your population is doing something, then it's not really a very good law," said Simon Levine, head of the intellectual property and technology group at DLA Piper.

Business Secretary, Vince Cable: "We've got to bring law in line with reality"

Legalising non-commercial copying for private use would bring the UK into line with many other nations and also meet the "reasonable expectations" of consumers, said the government.

The change would not make it legal to make copies and then share them online.

The legal anomaly preventing personal "ripping" was one of many identified by Professor Ian Hargreaves in the review as stifling innovation.

One technology caught out by the law was the Brennan JB7 music player that lets owners copy their CDs onto a hard drive that can be accessed from around their home.

The Advertising Standards Authority demanded that Brennan advise customers that using the JB7 breaks the law.


Some legal experts believe that the acceptance of format shifting, combined with relaxations on manipulating works for the purpose of parody, paved the way for creative people to use content in different ways.

Susan Hall, a media specialist at law firm Cobbetts LLP, said the changes would give many artists "room to breathe" and remove the nervousness they might feel when using another work as inspiration.

One example that would be tolerated under the new regime is the Welsh rap song Newport State of Mind which was based on Jay Z and Alicia Keys' song Empire State of Mind.

Still from Dr Who, BBC Greater leniency around copyright could produce more works such as Doctor Who, some argue

Despite winning many fans on YouTube, the track was removed following a copyright claim by EMI. It is still available on other websites.

"There are all sorts of things that are genuine artistic works which are nevertheless based on parody, caricature and pastiche," said Ms Hall.

Updated laws on copyright could have a profound effect on the popular culture that can be created, albeit one that was hard to measure, she added.

One example is that of Doctor Who writers Russell T Davies and Steven Moffat who wrote fan fiction about the time lord earlier in their careers.

Such creative synergies could become more common in a more tolerant copyright climate, suggested Ms Hall.

"Rights holders are often very nervous about things like this but when you come down to it, it's the people that buy everything who also go to the trouble of writing and creating more," she said.

"It's about riffing off, not passing off."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 287.

    281. Lynn
    Surely, if you left your car unlocked, it is unlikely for you to get back your lost property"

    CDs were secure when they were first released. Are you now saying that because some people can't be trusted, they should scrap CDs, legal MP3 downloads etc and everyone has to use locked-down proprietary players you can only get from the publisher? That seems to be what you want!

  • rate this

    Comment number 286.

    276. Gwely Mernans
    The technology is the drastic change that has liberated people to be able to do what they want, than what prior limiting forces would allow."

    Exactly. CDs came out in 1982. The first CD writer under $1000 came out in 1995. That's only 16 years ago. MP3 players came out in 1998, just 13 years ago. Before that, people wouldn't have thought of copying music digitally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 285.

    thanks coolblue3000 - if you work for a living as software designer and photographer - and you give away your work for free, how do you then make a 'living' ? Do you give away some of it ? - perhaps as a way of marketing the stuff you charge for ? If so, that's cool - it would be the same as me allowing streaming as a way of people hearing stuff I'd like them to buy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 284.

    @276. Gwely Mernans

    So what on earth has this got to do with the Conservatives? They have just announced above that the out dated laws will be changed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 283.

    I agree, However it will be legal to buy software that can rip DVD/CDs and therefore no one is breaking the law."

    The vendor of the s/w is obligated to pay the patent holders their royalties in this case (which are probably quite small). An open source vendor would have to demonstrate they did not infringe patents to avoid having to pay the royalties.

  • rate this

    Comment number 282.

    The movie industry has been ripping people off for years...why else do DVD's have different regions!

  • rate this

    Comment number 281.

    266 Paul,
    Why do you argue for the sake of arguing? I am talking about legal requirements of shop safety. Such principles have to be enforced on e-commerce.

    Surely, if you left your car unlocked, it is unlikely for you to get back your lost property. The legislations applicable are different between commercial and personal usage.

    Music/film industries violate our liberty (human rights).

  • rate this

    Comment number 280.

    Another thing...why wasn't the law changed went people started recording Vinyl onto cassette, burning CD's....oh and where is it you buy the blank casettes or CD's from?

    The record shops...pathetic really isn't it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 279.

    275. NotStayingLong
    I understand the distinction, so wouldn't it be sensible for Sky+ boxes, PVRs etc to automatically delete content after a certain period of time?"

    They could, but what 'period of time' should that be? A week, a month, a year?

    "Do they have a facility for copying content elsewhere"

    No - they don't allow that, as it would make it too easy to infringe copyright.

  • rate this

    Comment number 278.

    @275. NotStayingLong

    My Virgin V+ box has a connection to attach a DVD Recorder and controls in the menu to copy from the HDD to the DVD Recorder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 277.

    I just wonder what any of the people who post on this board, who work for a living, would think if somebady said ' sorry I'm going to provide what you do for free'"

    Open source software does this to proprietary software and changes the economics of that industry. There is a big hidden cost, though, which is what do you do should things go wrong and there is no or limited support.

  • rate this

    Comment number 276.


    "What on earth are you on about? What drastic changes?"

    The drastic change brought about to society as a consequence of the sudden arrival of a ubiquitous 'Information Technology' that completely rewrites what a person is capable of achieving.

    The technology is the drastic change that has liberated people to be able to do what they want, than what prior limiting forces would allow.

  • rate this

    Comment number 275.


    Nonsense. UK copyright law specifically allows time shifting, which is what this is.
    I understand the distinction, so wouldn't it be sensible for Sky+ boxes, PVRs etc to automatically delete content after a certain period of time? Do they have a facility for copying content elsewhere, if so isn't that simply that inviting infringement (I haven't got one so excuse my ignorance).

  • rate this

    Comment number 274.

    The record companies have been making supernormal profits for the last 30+ year anyway. The market just found a way around. Instead of focusing attention on costly, and ultimately fruitless, lawsuits why not make all content available for a small monthly fee? Whoever did could effectively steal the digital download market back from Apple. Then again Apple understand the market, record labels dont.

  • rate this

    Comment number 273.

    @Comment number 265. kingmojoclub
    I just wonder what any of the people who post on this board, who work for a living, would think if somebady said ' sorry I'm going to provide what you do for free'
    I work for a living as a software developer and photographer. And yes I do give away work for free. However no one is suggesting we all do this. So do not understand your point...

  • rate this

    Comment number 272.

    @DeVerre Lacey. You really think jailing someone for making a usefu piece of software is the right way to deal with piracy? If so you need your head examined.

  • rate this

    Comment number 271.

    @264 "These days, if I like an artist I will buy the physical CD and then download the same tracks from an 'illegal' website. "

  • rate this

    Comment number 270.

    250. Jason Mead
    "I knew it was a mistake to expect HYSers to recognise and appreciate irony, even when it hits them smack between the eyes."
    Oh? Irony is difficult to get across if you impersonate someone and their insult-as-debate approach too well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 269.

    Piracy of music and movies is old news. You now have console games (worth £30-£40 each) that are available for free on the internet. This is what happens when what used to be entertainment for a common man becomes a hobby for those with money only. I would be more than happy to pay for something with a reasonable price tag. I don't really ask for free things, just a decent price!

  • rate this

    Comment number 268.

    266. Paul

    If you want them to protect music as much as they can, then you go to DRM methods which need specific hardware and can't work on a PC - can't see that being popular...
    This is exactly what they do! I have many DVDs that will not play on my PC. This is the main reason many turned to piracy in the first place!


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