Saturday, 2 April 2011

If only #DEAct was an April Fool...

Another week, another letter to my MP regarding the Culture Secretary's meetings with rights holders and ISPs.  Mr Miliband did respond to my previous letter by passing my concerns onto Mr Vaizey - here's hoping that he will do so again given the recent developments.  There's been a flurry of activity in recent days, as we approached the anniversary of the Digital Economy Act's ascent into law, especially given discussions about web blocking and web filtering being implemented in the UK. We could also do well to look at the bigger picture, as the EU has just hired on of the IFPI's top lobbyists to oversee future copyright implementation (eg ACTA, iPRED2)

The notion being mooted in this instance is the establishment of a body similar to the non-profit Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) which collects data about and investigates online child abuse. The IWF then distributes a blacklist of web addresses for ISPs to filter out UK access.  Discussions seem to be gravitating towards the establishment of a similar body dealign with copyright infringement - such a body would act as an intermediary between ISPs and right-holders, but as to how they might function - well that much is unknown to date.  These powers are seeking to replicate much of those afforded to HADOPI in France and iPRED in Sweden, despite there being signs that these measures may be ineffective.  The question of how pays for such an organisation is yet to resolve, although costs may be passed onto IPS subscribers meaning higher broadband bills.

Anyway, here's my second letter in as many weeks to my MP.  Write to your now if you want to be able to use public wifi, libraries or watch YouTube videos:

Thank you for passing my previous concerns onto the Culture Secretary (email correspondence 28th March).  Given his recent intonations regarding the 'self-regulatory' scheme for website blocking measures to combat copyright infringement being discussed by rights holders and ISPs, I fear his mind may already be made up. 
I'd like to reiterate my concerns regarding the web blocking proposals, which I fear may have all manner of unintended consequences that might impact on democratic free speech.  Web blocking sounds like a simple idea. But the reality is that it is a dangerous cosmetic measure. Trying to simply block sites is a complicated process. Proving infringement and that a site warrants blocking is difficult. Deciding what people are allowed to see online is a matter requiring careful oversight.
A voluntary scheme such as the one being discussed by Mr Vaizey, rights holders and ISPs sidesteps any proper judicial oversight and places decisions about what people can and cannot see online in the hands of businesses.  
It also won’t work. It can be easily circumvented by anyone. But the inevitable mistakes, involving disruptions to legitimate traffic, would lead to interference with the interests of businesses, publishers and citizens. There is no conclusive evidence that it will help the creative industries, especially if we look to the example of iPRED in Sweden.
Music and film companies can already apply to courts to block specific instances of copyright infringement. They can also take the sites to court, and frequently do. They can even take individuals to court, and do. What the rightsholders want with this new scheme is to get around the judicial oversight required by the law already in place.  
I know that you have already passed on my prior concerns, but if it is appropriate given the recent discussions that have since taken place, I would appreciate it if you would forward my concerns to the ministers responsible, Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt.