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Govt rubber-stamps Google Review, drops web-blocking

Quango plays legislator

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Vince Cable is expected to announce that the government will endorse all the recommendations of the Hargreaves Review into intellectual property, the "Google Review" – tomorrow. The FT adds that Cable will also announce that regulator Ofcom has said Clauses 17 and 18 of the Digital Economy Act, dealing with website blocking, are unworkable.

Neither is totally unexpected – Ofcom's view is a reason why Culture Minister Ed Vaizey has been chairing industry meetings to discuss a non-regulatory alternative to Clauses 17 and 18. These have been condemned as "closed door meetings" by activists miffed at not being invited.

Ofcom is expected to conclude that no website blocking can be 100 per cent effective, which is technically correct: users can circumvent a block by a number of technical means. But 99 per cent wouldn't bother with proxies, onion routers or using numerical IP addresses, say rights-holders, so even a limited block would be highly effective.

They also query the right of a quango to make itself legislator supreme – when its job is to carry out the law. Whatever you think of web-blocking, that's a valid concern. Elected legislators make laws, the judiciary interprets them. Or is that a bit "analog era"?

Everyone proclaimed themselves the winners in a ruling last week which ordered BT to block access to Usenet scraper Newsbinz2; BT said it maintained the high cost... er legal duty of enforcing copyright online, rights-holders said it proved ISPs must block known rogue sites. It looks like things are much as they were.

Google's Hargreaves' main recommendations are to lift the restriction on format shifting – compensation is not mentioned – an exemption on data mining, easing the use on unattributed photographs by industry and libraries, and a "digital copyright exchange".

Two years ago Cameron called for "a new era of Google government". This must be what it what this looks like... ®

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