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Journalists Unite to Stop UK Digital Economy Act and ISPs Blocking Legitimate Sites

Posted: 25th Jun, 2010 By: MarkJ
DEA opinionThe National Union of Journalists (NUJ) has said that it will support legal challenges, such as those that could be brought by broadband ISPs like TalkTalk UK, against the recently passed and highly controversial Digital Economy Act (DEA). This is because the new law could be used against websites that publish material of public interest without permission (e.g. Wikileaks).

The Act seeks to tackle unlawful copyright file sharing (P2P) by, among other things, imposing technical measures upon internet providers (end-user speed restrictions, service disconnection etc.) and issuing warning notices to customers when such activity is detected. Despite some last minute changes, it could also still be used for blocking access to certain websites.

In response the NUJ has constructed a new policy that aims to oppose certain parts of the act, in court if necessary, and "fully [protect] the freedom of information and expression". It believes that sites which link incidentally to illegally distributed material (e.g. Google) or that inadvertently distribute related content (e.g. social networking, Facebook) should be exempt.

Government bigwigs Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt are now responsible for the Digital Economy Act (DEA), which was rushed into law as part of the pre-election "wash-up" process. Hunt had previously criticised the bill for being "weak, dithering and incompetent", before promising to review the act if the Conservatives got into power. Sadly both Vaizey and Hunt ultimately voted in favour of its final form.

However the rules designed to impose internet/website blocking are still effectively on-hold as part of a separate parliamentary process, which was a Labour concession to get its Act rushed through. Never the less its final wording still appears extremely ambiguous.
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