Urgent: Please Help Head Off Website Blocking in UK

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We have only a few hours to stop something bad happening in the House of Lords *this afternoon*:

Lib Dem peers are seeking to amend the Digital Economy Bill to allow site blocking for copyright infringement. This could lead to unwanted blocking of sites accused of copyright infringement, including sites like Youtube, and a massive chilling effect as any site with user generated content could easily fall foul of provisions like this.

If you have five minutes spare, please write to the two Lords behind this: Lord Razzall and Clement Jones. The links given take you to WriteToThem, so all you need to do is supply a few words. Here are mine:

I am writing to express my grave concern about your Amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill.

I fear that your amendment would place an unfair burden on those running Web sites, such that the mere threat of a shut down of their site would force them to take down material even when its presence could be defended in court – for example, if it were covered by fair dealing. This will have a huge chilling effect on free speech in this country – already seriously endangered because of the skewed libel laws we have.

As you know, under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the US has operated such a “takedown” system for a while now, so we can see how it functions in practice. Google published last year a report on the DMCA take-down notices it has received. According to this news story (at http://pcworld.co.nz/pcworld/pcw.nsf/feature/93FEDCEF6636CF90CC25757A0072B4B7):

Google notes that more than half (57%) of the takedown notices it has received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act 1998, were sent by business targeting competitors and over one third (37%) of notices were not valid copyright claims.

As such, Google says "Section 92A puts users’ procedural and fundamental rights at risk, by threatening to terminate users’ internet access based on mere allegations and reverse the burden of proof onto a user to establish there was no infringement."

It goes on to say, "Section 92A undermines the incredible social and economic benefits of the open and universally accessible internet, by providing for a remedy of account termination or disconnection that is disproportionate to the harm of copyright infringement online."

Here, then, we have clear evidence that such take-down schemes do not achieve what they set out to do, becoming instead merely instruments for companies to interfere with their competitors, or to make false allegations against innocent parties.

For these reasons, I urge you to withdraw your Amendment 120a.

Follow me @glynmoody on Twitter or identi.ca.

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