Online community slams Digital Economy Bill

Amendments may be used to block popular websites

LONDON -- Leading technology players including Google, Facebook, eBay, Yahoo! and British Telecom have warned that U.K. government plans to shut down websites that encourage illegal downloading will "disrupt the Internet" and were a "bitterly disappointing" attempt to tackle the problem of copyright infringement.

In a letter to the Financial Times, the heads of the U.K.'s major Internet service providers and a host of other Internet-driven businesses, consumer bodies and academics argue that a new amendment to the Digital Economy Bill -- which amends copyright law and has the power to force Internet service companies to shut down illegal downloading sites -- will damage the Internet as a whole.

"Endorsing a policy that would encourage the blocking of websites by U.K. broadband providers or other Internet companies is a very serious step for the U.K. to take," the companies said.

"There are myriad legal, technical and practical issues to reconcile before this can be considered a proportionate and necessary public policy option."

The amendment, imposed by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords last week, has been criticized by the online community because it could be used to block popular Internet destinations like Facebook and YouTube.

"Put simply, blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the Internet in the U.K. and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open Internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended," the letter continued, going on to criticize the timing of the Bill, which is expected to be passed before the general election takes place this summer.

"To rush through such a controversial proposal at the tail end of a parliament, without any kind of consultation with consumers or industry, is very poor law-making," the letter stated.

However, the bill has the support of content bodies like the British Phonographic Institute, which said the amendment was "a clear and sensible mechanism" to deal with illegal websites.
comments powered by Disqus