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 347.

    A law that even honest, decent people break routinely is not really much use.

    Perhaps what is most interesting about many British laws is they rely on the natural honesty of British people. This is why immigration can cause so many problems. Johnny immigrant has their own set of imported values and beliefs which are usually completely at odds with the British Way of honesty, truth and justice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 346.


    Don't fight battles you can't win.

    I wish our governments would apply the same sense to foreign affairs.

  • rate this

    Comment number 345.

    @ 328. Lynn
    You do realise that there is far more proof that patents harm innovation than enhance it? Software patents in particular are appalling and are anti competitive tools. No small business or individual could afford to protect their patents from large corporations and no small company could fight an invalid patent owned by a large corporation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 344.

    I don't know how much our local radio station pays the PRS to broadcast music, but I do object to having to pay hundreds of pounds a year to re-broadcast it around my pub. I'm sure they do hand out some money to deserving young musicians, but they also hold a lot of it back to keep themselves in well-paid work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 343.

    #269 "I don't really ask for free things, just a decent price!"

    Decent as determined by you presumably?

    Markets set prices and if people don't like them then they are not forced to buy. Anything else is just an excuse to steal other people's work.

    Cable should be working for secure business profits not handing out free stuff to make himself popular with voters at other people's expense.

  • rate this

    Comment number 342.

    Many people here saying that the justification for pirating is the high cost of the original and if the record companies sold CDs at a more realistic price they would buy rather than pirate.
    I'm sure that many actaully believe what they are saying but I'm equally sure that if the price dropped to 50p many of them would still download it for nothing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 341.

    This is another example of when we should listen to MP Tom Watson (labour).He was right about phone hacking and his was right about the Digital Economy Act. He challenged the bill in parliament because he understood it and it's implications. Unforntunately, most MPs are technology illitarate so passed the bill in the washup period before the election last year.
    The whole Digital Econ Act is crap.

  • rate this

    Comment number 340.

    I've been onown tohear a catchy tune on the wireless and hum it for days, does this count as 'Format Shifting' ?Seriously, what all the laws, rules and court hearings are trying but failing to enforce is obvious. If I buy some music, it's mine, I have the right to listen to it, & play it for others in my company; I don't have the right to re-distrubute it to other others, resell or broadcast it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 339.

    The revenues squeeze induced by massive pirating will fail to improve quality nor cheaper availability of product in fair exchange for works of artistic value. Moral justifications on such basis put forward by pirates are ultimately false and self serving. Media industries have to change and will do so but will not if the bet looks legally stacked against them with no protection.

  • rate this

    Comment number 338.

    @336.Rodneys_uncle - many do my good friend, many do.

    You are forgetting Blair Witch Project, which was made from amateur footage.

    And plenty of people upload videos to Youtube which become very popular.

    It's a matter of attitude. If you wish to create simply to be a millionaire, then I would suggest you have the wrong attitude, as people will no longer put up with it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 337.

    Rodneys_uncle -Sadly greed is alive and well in many forms in the 21st century."


    Yes and right at the top we have musicians and co. making thousands, if not millions off a few months work, for a lifetime.

    I make skins for a racing game I play on the PC, I upload them for free to a community, because it's something I enjoy doing and I have a 9-5 job.

    See the difference in attitude?

  • rate this

    Comment number 336.

    => 333

    Items covered by copyright can require backers to produce as they don't always cover the costs once the product is finished and it isn't just the stars who need paying but all the staff involved.

    However as it is all so easy to produce popular films and music why don't you all go out and show Hollywood and the record companies that their business model is wrong.

  • rate this

    Comment number 335.

    "...No copyright holder should be allowed to dictate what I can and cannot access on the internet because they "claim" (often wrongly) that a site allows piracy of their work. "

    If you don't want to pay for something don't use it. Nobody forces you to support a highly paid actor or musician. Why don't you just boycott them ? Sadly greed is alive and well in many forms in the 21st century.

  • rate this

    Comment number 334.

    A company ripped off my work through no fault of my own. Pursuing them in the UK is a long process and they went bust before I could get them into court. So they profited for a while, I couldnt use the money for new staff and the government, or as so many on here say when talking about them spending money, you lost out on some tax. How many on here advocating free music and films work for free.

  • rate this

    Comment number 333.

    265. kingmojoclub - thing is, people who work for a living, work 9-5 on a daily basis pretty much every day, and they give their time and services to a company who pays them .

    A record company, musician, film maker etc. puts in a few months work making a record, film, etc. and then expects to be paid for a lifetime for that 1 record...

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    Although the ISPs say they shouldn't be forced to cut off certain sites, they are in fact already dealing with the problem by increasingly throttling torrents ie slowing down the rate of file-sharing, so it becomes impossible to download them (or at least it takes a very, very long time).

    Unfortunately, that includes legitimate torrents, such as Linux-related software.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Fergal is fooling no one. All these small internet based artists would not make a living without the technology that is being used to copy their work. They give music away for free until they get better known then they try to protect it to make money. Artists get popular these days because of not in spite of the illegal copying. So they wouldn't be there without it Mr Teenage kicks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    And quite right too. No copyright holder should be allowed to dictate what I can and cannot access on the internet because they "claim" (often wrongly) that a site allows piracy of their work. Yes, piracy is a problem, but website blocking is a typically pathetic, innovation stifling, ham-fisted solution which will NEVER work. Now to clear up the BT Newzbin2 mess...

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    haha so we the users win its common knowledge pirating will always be there and always has been so why waste money on trying to stop it its about the big movie and music companys dropped the prices

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    My solution for this subject is to make our laws more protection on "patents", but less protection on “copy rights”, so that our national justice system can be invested in the right areas.


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