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UK government investigates website blocking legality

UK government investigates website blocking legality

A working group led by Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has held a meeting with representatives of Britain’s top ISPs and online media outlets to discuss site blocking.

Under Section 17 of the Digital Economy Act, the government has the theoretical power to block websites accused of illegal filesharing. The act was one of a number of legislations rushed through by the previous Labour government.

At the meeting yesterday, Hunt together with the Minister for the communications and creative industries Ed Vaizey discussed site blocking with Britain’s top broadband providers including BT, Virgin Media and TalkTalk. 

The act, designed to safeguard online entertainment industries, also includes provisions to tackle illegal file sharers themselves. A three strike system gives the government power to disconnect users who caught sharing illegal files for a third time.

BT and TalkTalk had previously asked for a high court review of the act, refusing to accept the disconnection law in principal.

According to the Guardian, an attendee commented: "it is agreed that what is needed is a plan B, or at least a plan that works alongside section 17 which would be the legal backstop."

Hunt is trying to ascertain the practicality and legality of site blocking, seeking a way of doing it without dragging the government or ISPs into a legal mire.

At the start of Febuary, Hunt asked Ofcom to investigate the problem. He said: “I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content. But it is not clear whether the site-blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice, so I have asked Ofcom to address this question."

Although the Digital Economy Act is designed to protect the British online entertainment industry, campaigners have complained that site blocking could open the door to internet censorship.

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Tags: BT, Broadband, isps, bittorrent, digital economy act, talktalk

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