UK government wants search engines to fight copyright infringement

By EDRi · September 21, 2011

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Deutsch: [Britische Regierung fordert von Suchmaschinen Unterst├╝tzung im Kampf gegen Urheberrechtsverletzungen |]

During his speech at the Royal Television Society’s Cambridge Convention on
14 September 2011, UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt called on search engines
and ISPs to bar links to websites which, allegedly, distributed material
unlawfully, on companies to stop advertising with the respective websites
and on financial institutions to block transactions related to such

Hunt announced at the beginning of 2011 that the Government would conduct a
review of UK communications laws and a consultation on new legislation in
the matter opened in May to get feedback from media, telephone providers,
TV, radio and online publishers.

Following the consultation, proposals for a Communications Bill are now to
be put forward leading to new communications regulations that would come
into effect in 2015.

Hunt expressed the idea that the Communications Act had to change in order
to address, amongst other things, the “protection of consumers and
companies from offensive content and from the damage done by unlawful or
unlawfully distributed content.”

Regarding the “offensive content”, in the Secretary’s opinion, the Act
should oblige ISPs to ensure that their customers “make an active choice
about parental controls, either at the point of purchase or the point of
account activation.”

The UK official rejected the freedom of speech argument against obliging
ISPs to block websites, considering the illegal distribution of copyrighted
material as a theft and “a direct assault on the freedoms and rights of
creators of content to be rewarded fairly for their efforts.”

Therefore, he called for the cooperation of the search engines and ISPs in
this matter and suggested a series of actions to be included in the new
Communications Act among which, the creation of a cross-industry body in
charge of identifying copyright infringing websites, the introduction of the
responsibility for search engines and ISPs to make access to such sites hard
(after a court has established the respective websites contained unlawful
content or promoted unlawful content), the responsibility for advertisers to
remove their advertisements from such sites and the responsibility of
financial entities to remove their services from the respective websites.

Mr Hunt also proposed a “streamlined legal process”, speeding up the process
of bringing to court those accused of copyright infringement.

Free speech advocates believe these plans are dangerous, pushing private
bodies into taking decisions about who’s breaking the law. “That amounts to
privatisation of justice, which is very dangerous,” said Jim Killock,
executive director of the EDRi-member Open Rights Group (ORG). ORG filed an
FOI request asking for the evidence gathered by the Culture Secretary.
“(…) we are willing to bet that he has not commissioned anything, and yet
again, these are unbalanced, lobby-driven proposals,” said Killock.

Jeremy Hunt’s speech at Royal Television Society – RTS Cambridge Convention

Search and ISP companies may be asked to help tackle copyright infringement,
says minister (15.09.2011)

British Minister Wants Search Engines to Fight Piracy (15.09.2011)

Jeremy Hunt calls on search engines to back anti-piracy plans (14.09.2011)

EDRi-gram: Copyright industry obtains court injunction against BT to block
website (24.08.2011)