U.K. Government Drops Website Blocking Plan

6:26 AM PST 08/03/2011 by Ralf Ludemann

Business secretary Vince Cable announced the change following a review of the policy by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

LONDON -- Plans to block websites that host copyright infringing material are to be abandoned by the government, according to the BBC.

Business secretary Vince Cable announced the change following a review of the policy by telecoms regulator Ofcom.

Website blocking was one of the key provisions contained in the Digital Economy Act.

Internet Service Providers had objected to the idea that copyright owners could compel them to cut off some sites.

In the past week, the Motion Picture Association - a group representing film studios - successfully applied for a court injunction requiring BT to block access to an infringing website called Newzbin2.

The action was taken without using the Digital Economy Act, prompting some observers to question the need for the legislation.

Speaking to the BBC, Vince Cable appeared to suggest that the Newzbin2 case had opened up other legal avenues.

"We've discovered that the drafting of the original laws, which took place a year or so ago, were not tight.

"There are test cases being fought in the courts, so we're looking at other ways of achieving the same objective, the blocking objective to protect intellectual property in those cases, but in a way that's legally sound."

The government's decision to drop the DEA's blocking provision was criticized by UK Music, the body which represents musicians and record labels in the U.K.

Its chief executive, Fergal Sharkey said: "Who wants to tell the 80% of music businesses that employ fewer than five people, and the thousands of artists who self-finance the production of their own albums, that to enjoy the protection of the law, all they need now is to have millions of pounds and spend years in court to protect their work."

Mr Cable also announced a raft of measures intended to update the U.K.'s copyright laws.

The changes are based on the Hargreaves Review which was set up to examine current legislation's fitness for purpose in the digital age.

One of the most significant recommendations that the government plans to implement is the legalization of "format shifting" - where users rip content from CDs or DVDs for their own personal use.

"We are talking about big changes," said Mr Cable.

"Bringing the laws more up-to-date to have a proper balance which allows consumers and businesses to operate more freely, but at the same time protect genuinely creative artists and penalize pirates."

The business secretary said the economy would benefit by £8 billion ($13.12 billion) over the next few years by updating the legislation.

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