The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, appeared to have kicked the ball into the long grass when he asked Ofcom to review the
workability of the government's controversial web blocking plans earlier this year. In fact, the measures continue to move apace.
Proposals are being mooted on two fronts: one could establish a new version of the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to deal with filesharing; the other would put Google and the government on a collision course.
Rights holders and internet providers are understood to be roughly in favour of an industry-wide voluntary code . This code would govern how and which filesharing sites are censored. Rights holders would likely have to satisfy a number of
points before a Pirate Bay-like site would be blocked.
The code could establish a independent third body akin to the IWF that would implement the code and ultimately decide which filesharing sites are censored.
Detractors argue that such a newly created body would simply be too expensive and time consuming.
A variant, favoured by the legal professionals, is for a judge to rule whether a site should be blocked after the voluntary code has been satisfied. This would quell ISPs' fears about having to paying compensation to sites that claim to have been
wrongly blocked, and also negate the need for a new body.
Ofcom has been asked to review censorship via website blocking against the backdrop of the Digital Economy Act - in other words, this won't be voluntary, but set in a statutory context.
According to people consulted by Ofcom in recent weeks, the regulator is thought to be leaning down the domain name blocking route . Although Ofcom is not expected to recommend one blocking method over another, it will spell out the pros
and cons of each.
30th April 2011. See article
Following complaints from two of the country's largest ISPs, last month the High Court began its judicial review of the Digital Economy
Act, the legislation put in place in the UK to deal with illicit file-sharing.
Both ISPs accused the former government of pushing through the legislation without due process and questioned whether the Act is enforceable under current EU legislation. They also challenged the statutory order, currently in draft, designed to
apportion the costs of meeting the requirements of the DEA. Under the law, service providers are required to take action against subscribers flagged as illicit file-sharers and could be required to block domains associated with infringement.
Now the High Court has almost completely rejected the challenge by BT and TalkTalk, with the ISPs winning only a slight concession on costs.
Mr Justice Kenneth Parker upheld the principle of taking measures to tackle the unlawful downloading of music, films, books and other copyright material. BT and TalkTalk had brought the judicial review, claiming that the measures in the Act were
not compliant with EU law and were not proportionate. The judge rejected the challenge.
The judge ruled ISPs could be made to pay a share of the cost of operating the system and the appeals process but not Ofcom's costs from setting up, monitoring and enforcing it.
The Government will now consider changes to the statutory instrument.