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BT wary of rights holders' site-blocking proposal

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The confidential series of digital economy meetings chaired by Culture secretary Ed Vaizey are a bit less confidential after the leak of a proposal put together by copyright holders. Vaizey wants internet companies and copyright groups to thrash out their differences.

The most recent of the meetings last week saw a site-blocking plan tabled for discussion. The proposal was created at Vaizey's request for a voluntary, self-regulatory alternative that would replace sections of the Digital Economy Act.

The proposal is intended to restrict access to sites that are "substantially focused upon infringement of copyright". Rights holders say "attractive" legal offerings should be available and that the proposal is not aimed at "casual infringement, but at those sites, proportionality few in number, which focus on infringement."

The plan sees an "Expert Body" to decide on the sites, and implement the code. Once earmarked, proposals to restrict access would be handled by the Applications Court of the High Court, and require judicial consent, but allows cases to be heard within days rather than months. Compliant ISPs might receive a "kitemark".

"The evidence would need to be sufficient to satisfy any expert body (and subsequently the Court) that the target site taken as a whole substantially focuses on infringement and has failed to take available action to remedy the situation in response to a notice."

BT was understood to object strongly to the plan, we gather. Vaizey doesn't necessarily back a censorship solution, but is getting fed up with the lack of constructive engagement from ISPs. He was reportedly unimpressed by BT's response.

It may be considered an opening gambit. Other kites flown include pop-ups and "traffic lights", rather than outright blocking, as we discussed here.

Copyright spartists the Open Rights Group are miffed that they are not invited to the Vaizey-chaired sessions, and published the proposal on their website. (Lib Dem James Firth also got a copy, and was first to spill the beans).

The quango Consumer Focus attended the sessions for the first time last week. ®

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