Online censorship discussed for the UK.

Posted: June 25, 2011 in Technology, UK

Major criticisms have been raised regarding industry plans to block websites that stream copyrighted material for free. Following a meeting held last week between communications minister Ed Vaizey and several Internet Service Providers and copyright holders. Digital campaigners, The Open Rights Group (ORG) requested to attend the meeting, but was turned down. The group has called for more public debate on the issue saying that it was “unacceptable” for policy to be formed in this way. The use of web blocking is seen as a way to combat the increasing amount of copyrighted material that is being streamed for free online. The ORG said that it has learnt that part of the discussion was about setting up a “council” that could be given the power to decide which websites were blocked.

Jim Killock, executive director of the ORG, a vocal campaigner against the measures being proposed has said: “It is unacceptable for trade groups and the government to conduct policy in this way. Censorship proposals must be discussed in public.” He added: “Many of us will oppose any censorship that impacts directly and widely on free expression.” There are no details of how the “councils” would be made up, but consumer group Consumer Focus, who was at the meeting, warned that it would be inappropriate for right holders to decide which UK websites should be blocked. The plans come in the wake of the Digital Economy Act (DEA), which mandates some anti-piracy action and obliges ISPs to work with rights holders to identify persistent pirates. The group of copyright holders behind the plans included the Publishers Association, the BPI, the Football Association Premier League and the Motion Picture Alliance.

If the proposals get the go-ahead it could allow the Premier League to block access to live streams of its football matches. In response to the criticism, a spokesperson from the Department for Culture Media and Sport issued a statement: “The government hosted a useful discussion between ISPs and rights holders on issues around industry proposals for a site blocking scheme to help tackle online copyright infringement. “Consumer representatives were invited and Consumer Focus attended the meeting.”

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