Sunday, March 14, 2010

Peers 'set to offer digital economy bill concessions'; (London) Guardian, 3/12/10

Jason Deans, (London) Guardian; Peers 'set to offer digital economy bill concessions':

"Peers will reportedly offer concessions over controversial anti-piracy legislation that would lead to websites being blocked without due judicial process, following criticism from internet companies including Google, Facebook and Yahoo.

The Liberal Democrats are planning to publish changes to an earlier amendment to the digital economy bill, 120A, that seek to address concerns about the anti-piracy proposals raised by internet service providers and leading web companies, according to today's Financial Times.

Last week Lib Dem and Conservatives peers added amendment 120A to the bill giving a high court judge the right to issue an injunction against a website accused of hosting a "substantial" amount of copyright infringing material, potentially forcing the entire site offline. The amendment was passed in the House of Lords by 165 votes to 140.

Under three changes proposed by the Lib Dems, of which the FT reports the Conservatives are broadly supportive, a judge could order copyright owners to pay legal costs and other compensation for asking a service provider to block a site. Content owners must also inform owners of sites they accuse of infringing their copyright before asking that it be blocked, and list the works illegally hosted.

Website owners or "any person aggrieved" would be able to appeal against a block under the latest amendments.

The Lib Dems are expected to publish the amendment today and they will be voted on in the Lords on Monday as part of the third reading of the digital economy bill, according to the FT.

Earlier this week a group of internet and technology companies, along with consumer groups, co-signed a letter published in the FT criticising amendment 120A. They said it raised "myriad legal, technical and practical issues" that needed to be reconciled before it could be "considered a proportionate and necessary public policy option".

The letter was co-signed by the heads of the four largest UK internet service providers – BT, Orange, Virgin Media and TalkTalk – as well as Google, Facebook, eBay and Yahoo, along with consumer groups, academics and the technophile television host Stephen Fry."

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