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Record labels seek DMCA-style UK takedowns

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Exclusive Record label trade association the BPI wants sweeping changes to UK online copyright practice in 11th hour amendments to the Digital Britain bill.

The amendments would grant copyright holders injunctions against websites and service providers similar to the US DMCA act - but with no 'safe harbour' provision to verify whether the claim is merited, according to documents seen by The Register.

The BPI amendments would introduce an entirely new Section 97B of the 1988 Copyright Design and Patent Act, and would be granted when an ISP had refused to take down infringing material. The Secretary of State would have the ability to review and amend the provision "by allowing the injunctive relief available to the Court to evolve and to keep pace with technology".

As it stands in draft form, the Digital Britain bill would compel rightsholders to identify and notify infringers, in a "graduated" response, ultimately ending in temporary suspension of Internet access. The revised Section 97B, if passed, would dramatically switch the burden from rights holder to publisher.

The BPI believes it is analogous to defamation injunctions, where publication and distribution of an entire work can be halted because of an offending passage.

"Any concerns regarding Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to a fair hearing) are dealt with by the fact that the service provider would be a full and active party in the proceedings," the BPI writes, somewhat hopefully.

In a statement, the BPI told us:

“Clause 17 is an essential component of the Bill since it provides a mechanism to deal with the increasing threat of illegal downloading from non-P2P sources and other future threats. In light of the ongoing debate on the current draft of Clause 17, we thought it prudent to propose possible alternative approaches, including a straw-man s.97B. However, Clause 17 remains our favoured approach to address forms of online infringement other than P2P filesharing.”

The amendment game

With the Lords due to debate the Digital Britain Bill today, the ISP trade association ISPA and major labels are both lobbying hard, tabling dozens of amendments.

One by Conservative peer Lord Lucas would put search engines above the law, making them immune to any copyright claims at all. According to Paid Content, Google would be free to store and distribute anything it wanted, selectively abolishing copyright.

Interestingly the BPI justifies the new Clause 17 on the basis that the current draft "does not command support of the main opposition parties."

ISPA declined to provide a comment.

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