Ofcom to review Digital Economy Act site-blocking measures
When a 'principle' simply isn't enough
Communications watchdog Ofcom is to review sections of the Digital Economy Act to see if they are workable.
The government said this morning that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt had asked Ofcom to consider whether the Act, which was expected to come into force this month, could work on the issue of reserve powers to enable courts to block copyright-infringing sites.
“I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content. But it is not clear whether the site-blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice, so I have asked Ofcom to address this question," said Hunt.
“Before we consider introducing site-blocking, we need to know whether these measures are possible.”
UK.gov said that if such measures were brought in, secondary legislation would need to be introduced, hence the added scrutiny.
"Although reform of the Digital Economy Act did not form part of the Coalition Agreement, we have listened to the views expressed," said Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.
"The government will look at whether we have the right tools for the job in addressing the problem of online copyright infringement."
Ofcom – which is currently prepping a "mass notification system" for the Act – has been tasked with reviewing the feasibility of site-blocking. In the meantime, the government plans to sit on those DEA measures until the watchdog has reached a conclusion about that section of the Act, said Clegg.
The latest scrutiny of measures detailed in the DEA comes less than two months after a judicial review was granted by the High Court in November last year. A hearing for that review will take place on 22 March.
Senior judges agreed to look at the DEA following a complaint from BT and TalkTalk. Both companies grumbled that the Act had been rushed through Parliament before the election.
That review, alongside Ofcom's separate probe, looks certain to delay the Act's anti-unlawful file-sharing regime. ®
WHY do we (ie - the govt) spend stupid amounts of time and money chasing a problem that doesn't actually matter?
There are WAY more important issues and problems than some video or CD being copied on the internet? Internet piracy seems to have got itself elevated into this god-like-importance position (a bit like football on TV and in the press) to the point where it's the first thing any MP thinks about when you mention "the internet"! And all this effort is being put in to bail out some (usually) American film or record company. Who gives a stuff? I wish the same effort was put into solving real crimes that affected real people in real ways.
“I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content"
So, if I understand this correctly, all any torrent type site has to do is host a couple of copies of some legal freeware, and they are excluded from the possibility of being blocked?
Does this mean some clerk will have to go through the entire site's catalogue before approving such a measure? I rather suspect not and think that a broad brush approach will be taken, leading to all sorts of dangers and allegations of back-door censorship.
We've already seen how "Letters before Action" can cause some ISPs to dump websites they host with no real legal cause just to avoid the hassle. Robert Maxwell would be proud.
And he seriously expects
A sensible coherent and impartial review from OFCOM? Not a snowball's.
There is already plenty of advice out there which explains why the DEAct is a crock of garbage. This exercise is a) designed so that the government can say "but our watchdog says it's ok" and b) a complete waste of time, effot and money.
Just repeal the act.