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By: MarkJ - 12 March, 2010 (6:22 AM)
piracy law ukThe British Phonographic Industry (BPI) has today been ousted as the true source of Amendment 120A (Clause 18). The controversial 120A was rushed into the Digital Economy Bill (DEB) at the last minute, without sufficient debate or consultation, and could lead to mass internet censorship in the UK; websites such as YouTube are potentially at risk of being blocked.

Amendment 120A would force broadband ISPs into blocking any site deemed to contain "a substantial proportion" of content that infringes copyright. However the wording and method leaves far too much room for interpretation. It has also been widely criticised for giving rights holders cart blanch to have websites blocked because they know ISPs would not spend money to defend other peoples work in court.

The new amendment came about because Clause 17, which would have given the governments Secretary of State (i.e. Peter Mandelson) freedom to adjust copyright law at any time of his choosing and without much debate, received significant opposition and was to be dropped. Ironically 120A has proven just as controversial.

Now the Open Rights Group (ORG) has leaked the BPI's draft alternative amendment to Clause 17, which matches nearly word for word the new 120A. Suffice to say this represents an unsettling, if not altogether surprising, turn of events.

Jim Killock, Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, said:

"Taking a major proposal from lobbyists from one part of industry and shoving it into a bill without consultation is totally irresponsible.

This proposal, drafted by the BPI, could produce backdoor web censorship and unjustified blocks on websites. That's what happens when only one side of a problem gets to influence the debate: and that's why we also have disconnection proposed as a punishment.

Disconnection of families - also pushed by the BPI - will damage innocent people's education, businesses and work, while giving extreme protections for copyright holders.

Something very fundamental has gone wrong in this debate. We have a Bill which is a complete mess, and large parts of it should be scrapped right now."

Those who doubt the similarities need only take a brief look at the document itself, which can be downloaded below. To be fair it does look as if the lords cut out some of the most disturbing elements, such as one that could have reproduced Clause 17. Sadly the main thrust has stayed intact.
BPI's Proposed Clause 17 Alternative (MS Word .DOC Format)
It is of course perfectly reasonable for anybody to propose an amendment, after all we do live in a democracy. However the fact that something as obviously significant as the BPI's 120A managed to make it in, almost word for word and with no wider consultation, is highly questionable; inappropriate wholesale law making at its finest.

Related News:
3 March, 2010 - UK Digital Economy Bill Amendment to Block Copyright Infringing Sites
4 March, 2010 - UK ISPs React Angrily to Bill that Blocks Copyright Infringing Sites
10 March, 2010 - UK ISPs and Internet Firms Slate Government Plans to Block Piracy Sites

UPDATE - 1:06pm

Lib Dem and Conservatives peers are due to make several changes to 120A today, which will be put to the vote on Monday.
1. Accused website owners will be able to appeal against the blocks.

2. Judge's could order Rights Holders to pay the legal costs and any related compensation for asking ISPs to block a site.

3. Rights Holders would need to inform the website they want to block before actually asking for the block to be made. This would act as a kind of "Notify and Remove" procedure, much as should already happen.
However it’s not clear what kind of appeal process is being proposed as it lacks detail.
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