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UK ISPs Asked to Voluntarily Block 100 P2P, Cyberlocker Sites


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Copyright holders have identified 100 websites, among them Newzbin2 and The Pirate Bay, that they want ISPs to block as part of a proposed voluntary code of conduct being considered between rights holders and ISPs.

One of the so-called solutions to the problem of illegal file-sharing in the UK has been a proposed voluntary code of conduct between rightsholders and ISPs whereby infringing websites would be filtered from subscribers' connections.

Rights holders managed to push through the controversial Digital Economy Act last year, and it contained provisions for forcing ISPs to block access to "online locations" if a "substantial portion" of that location infringes copyright, but in order to be used they require the consent of both houses of Parliament and the courts which is no easy feat.

A voluntary code of conduct between the two would bypass all these requirements, and fast track site filtering plans.

"Cheaper than notice sending would be site blocking," said an unnamed rights holder present at the government-sponsored meetings. "We're more interested in site blocking [than warning letters]. We don't want to target end users, [the warning letter system] is long winded – we want something now."

Part of the problem, however are ISP concerns with the list itself. Who is in charge of making the list, and what mechanisms will be available for accused sites to appeal? There's also the matter of who foots the bill for the appeal process.

"Site blocking is an interesting concept which we're open to, but there are issues on how to make it work, how to give sites a fair hearing, its governance structure and indemnity," said another source present at the meeting (likely an ISP). "But get a judge to tell us to do it and we'll do it."

Website filtering, even if approved, still faces a number of obstacles.

Early last month Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt asked the Office of Communications (Ofcom) to determine if website blocking is even "possible."

UK ISPs Talk Talk and BT have already asked for and succeeded in convincing the country's High Court to take a look at whether the DEA was passed into law without going through correct parliamentary procedures, and whether some of proposed measures to fight illegal file-sharing could "harm the basic rights and freedoms of citizens."

Of particular concern to the two is that the DEA may conflict with the EU's e-commerce directive which states that ISPs are "mere conduits" of content and should not be held responsible "for all types of illegal activities initiated by third parties."

This Judicial Review is scheduled to begin today, and the outcome may make this voluntary code of practice a moot point.

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