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 327.

    From the linked story Cameron commenting on US copyright states :
    "Over there, they have what are called 'fair-use' provisions, which some people believe gives companies more breathing space to create new products and services.

    What he misses is that US fair use relates to use by non commercial organisations and that the US courts can award damages for successful claims for breach of copyright.

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    125. DeVere_Lacey 6 Hours ago

    "Just because 90% of the population is breaking the law, doesnt mean the law is wrong."

    Um yes it does actually, by definition. We live in a democracy, therefore a laws legitimacy is directly proportional to the respect the public shows it.

    In this case the public clearly knows it is stupid that we cannot format shift, there is no good moral argument against it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    The point is not pressed home in this article...the government is not in the business to protect private monopolies or protect private commercial interests where it is against the interests of a free market...remember this came about as prices of these products did not reflect free market arbitrage and had been fixed artificially by the companies

    The government is not going far enough here.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    thanks mipa5 @ 316 - I think you are correct actually. But do you think that if something is successful ( i.e. profitable ) it is by definition worthless artistically? There are not really many success stories in the music business. Most of us earn nothing from what we do as it is. It would be great if we could sell to our 'niche' audience in a realistic way - that's all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.

    Even if there is not much technology available; the music/film e-shops rarely give us sufficient warming. Very often, they encourage us customers for free download, and later, bring us, the customers, to court for copy-right infringement.

    People are angry about it, because it is operated as “entrapments”.

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    @147 Motterz1
    "Thre is also the issue of the legal sale of technology that not only allows for format shifting, but also the recording of programmes on TV that you want to watch when you're out. Does this mean that Freeview+ or Sky+ boxes as well as computers etc. should be sold with the same caveat as the JB7?"

    They should be. Time shifting is legal but archiving isn't. How many know this?

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    I reckon Ofcom have reviewed the policy and found it inpossible to implement.

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    If internet banking is not secure, who should be blamed? Customer or bank?

    The answer is obvious. Unprotected music/film products are not in good quality for customers to use. The e-shops should be made responsible.

    Unless the e-shops owners can prove to court otherwise, that they have done all they can to prevent piracy, the copy rights should not be protected.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    There definitely needs to be some sort of change in 'copyright infringement.' I can't even upload my project online because I have background music that is copyrighted. It seems nonsense that I pay for these songs and I can't even use them!! It's the greed of the record labels that encourage people to download illegally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    @312. kingmojoclub

    People have pirated my work also, but rather than sue them I would rather find a way to work with the trends. You surely make money from the gigs so the more people that listen to your music (free or otherwise) can benefit you. Also if some of those that Pirate your first album buy your second then this can also be a benefit. Be innovative and reap the rewards.

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    @312. kingmojoclub

    One of the worlds best photographers once told me. "Don't go into photography if you want to make money, do it for yourself and if you make money out of it then it is a bonus" Only a select few photographers make money from selling their images. The same applies to the musicians.

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    @ 312.kingmojoclub

    'If you can't sell your product anymore ( at whatever pricepoint ) then there's no point making it. Losing copyright protection will ultimately mean no more new music or movies.'

    Or...... it may mean music and movies created by those who are not financially driven get more airtime which may drive up the quality.......

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    @311. CryFreedomMachine

    What a riduculous reaction....

    ZJKs comment was perfectly reasonable. If the Media industry provided what customers wanted at reasonable prices then more people would buy. Blurays are overpriced, and although some come with a digital copy (at a cost I may add) this copy is only available for a month after release, will only play on some devices and is not hd!

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    311. CryFreedomMachine
    "Go live in the slums of Mumbia then, I am sure goods will be more your level of acceptable payment."
    I think we all realise "go live" statements mean you're dodging the point.

  • rate this

    Comment number 313.

    Its all a joke. If the govenrment thinks they can stamp out piracy through barbarian techniques, they are wrong! People will devise better more cunning ways of downloading data. The copywriters will never stamp this out. How much money do these people want?

  • rate this

    Comment number 312.

    Thanks coolblue3000 - @302 - my point is that my music is all I have - if someone else chooses to make it available for nothing it's not my choice. It's theft. In fact it's more like looting. If you can't sell your product anymore ( at whatever pricepoint ) then there's no point making it. Losing copyright protection will ultimately mean no more new music or movies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 311.

    Comment number 269 is an Editors' Pick
    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!

    Go live in the slums of Mumbia then, I am sure goods will be more your level of acceptable payment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 310.

    298. Bob Matthews
    "It is all about control.The next step will be to decide which news programs..."
    No it is not: it is about having sustainable businesses that continue to employ people gainfully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 309.

    301.P Steadman
    5 Minutes ago
    I'd have a lot more Sympathy with the likes of SONY if they didn't sell blank discs and the equipment to burn films and music to them...

    Talk about have your cake and eat it.

    It's called TRUST, of which there is little/NO difference between dodgy expense theiving politicians & the untrustworthy thieves they represent as per so many on this HYS

  • rate this

    Comment number 308.

    @301. P Steadman

    Plus illegally installing malware on peoples PCs and using questionable legal tactics to cut out competition.


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