UK Government to decide on the Internet disconnections and web blocking

By EDRi · March 10, 2010

This article is also available in:
Deutsch: [GB-Regierung entscheidet über Internetsperren und Webblockaden |]

Discussions continue in the House of Lords over the controversial Digital
Economy Bill especially over Internet disconnections (or account suspension,
as the UK Government is calling it now) and web blocking.

The draft law would give the power to the secretary of state at the
Government Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (DBIS) and not to
the Parliament to decide upon the maximum period of account suspension
for people found guilty of illegal file sharing.

Following the strong opposition against the disconnection of alleged illegal
file sharers, the Government stated that it would apply only a “temporary
suspension” of the Internet accounts. “We will not terminate the accounts of
infringers … (but) … We added account suspension to the list of possible
technical measures which might be considered.” DBIS argues that “temporary
suspension can’t effectively mean termination of an internet connection”.

However, there is no clear definition in the bill to what “temporary” means.

As a response to an e-petition posted on Number 10 website and closed on 23
February 2010 asking for the abandonment of the plans to ” ban individuals
from the internet based on their use of peer to peer file sharing”, the
government says: “We will not terminate the accounts of infringers – it is
very hard to see how this could be deemed proportionate except in the most
extreme – and therefore probably criminal – cases.”

“It is still the case that on the say-so of record labels and film studios
people will have their internet connections suspended (i.e. disconnected).
All that the Government seems to be saying is that permanent disconnection
will be reserved for the very worst offenders. But they have been saying
that since day one. There is no change,” commented ISP TalkTalk.

A worrying situation occurred following the submission by the Liberal
Democrats and Tories of an amendment against Clause 17 pushed by the
Labourists as a means to “future proof” copyright against infringement. In
spite of the warnings of the EDRi-member Open Rights Group, Consumer Focus
and others, the amendment introduced by Liberal Democrats and Tories, which
is even worse and more threatening, was passed by the House of Lords on 4
March on second reading.

Answering to the appeal made by the Open Rights Group, Lord Tim
Clement-Jones, one of the peers having introduced the amendment, argued that
the amendment (called amendment 120A) would enable the High Court to grant
an injunction requiring ISPs to block access to websites accused of hosting
a “substantial” amount of copyright infringing material. He stated that the
intention was to apply the injunction only to sites “where there is a
substantial proportion of infringing material that is either hosted by that
particular site or is accessed through the particular site in question.”

The amendment faced opposition even from within the Liberal Democrat Party.

ISPA, the association of UK ISPs, considers the amendment “misjudged and
disproportionate” and Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights
Group believes that “this would open the door to a massive imbalance of
power in favour of large copyright holding companies. (…) Individuals and
small businesses would be open to massive ‘copyright attacks’ that could
shut them down, just by the threat of action.”

The Bill is still to go through a third reading in the House of Lords and
then two readings, a committee stage, a report stage and a final reading in
the House of Commons.

Mandelson could decide length of internet suspensions for filesharers

Plans to cut off internet connections of illegal filesharers dumped

Confirmed: Lib Dems and Conservatives force web blocking into the Digital
Economy Bill (3.03.2010)

Lord Clement-Jones on the Digital Economy Bill: web blocking amendment

New amendment gives copyright owners a blank cheque for web censorship

ISPA Outraged by Amendment on Network Level Blocking to Digital Economy Bill

Lords copyright change ‘could block YouTube’ (4.03.2010)

EDRi-gram: Three strikes plans in UK (4.11.2009)