Government calls for tougher internet regulation

Fresh anti-piracy measures coming in the planned Communications Bill
Emma Woollacott

September 15, 2011

Culture minister Jeremy Hunt is calling on search engines and internet service providers to enforce a ban on pirated content.

He wants a new measure included in the planned Communications Bill to block links to websites offering pirated content. He’s also asking advertisers, banks and credit card companies to stop dealing with such sites.

“We do not allow certain products to be sold in the shops on the high street, nor do we allow shops to be set up purely to sell counterfeited products,” he told a Royal Television Society meeting.

“Likewise, we should be entitled to make it more difficult to access sites that are dedicated to the infringement of copyright.”

Hunt is suggesting the creation of a cross-industry body - possibly modelled on the Internet Watch Foundation - which would be tasked with identifying infringing websites.

Search engines and ISPs would be required to take ‘reasonable steps’ to limit access to sites found to be unlawful. Without giving details, he also said he wanted a streamlined legal process to make it easier for the courts to act quickly.

Hunt was presumably encouraged in making his proposals by a recent court case in which BT was ordered to block content from Newzbin2, which links to pirated movies, TV shows, music and software. Similar orders against other ISPs are highly likely to follow.

Google has little to fear from the new proposals - it’s recently introduced tools to allow copyright owners to ask to have infringing content removed, and says it’s cut the take-down time to under twenty-four hours.

“We built the tools earlier this year, and they are now being successfully used by more than a dozen content industry partners who together account for more than 75 percent of all URLs submitted in DMCA takedowns for Web Search,” said Kent Walker, Google’s senior vice president and general counsel.

“We continue to believe that making high-value content available in authorized forms is a crucial part of the battle against online infringement.”

But civil rights organisations are likely to argue that the new rules will be too draconian. The Open Rights Group, for example, says it believes that the enforcement of copyright has already become too aggressive.

“The enforcement of copyright should be proportionate, involve real due process and be consistent with peoples’ civil rights, from privacy to freedom of expression,” the group noted.


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