Friday, March 05, 2010

Yesterday Not Quite in Parliament

Putting some links here today and yesterday as one-stop shop for people interested in the ongoing debate on DEB

Faintly worrying interview with L Clement-Jones of the LibDems re am 120a - is this er really how laws should be made? By trying to read the mind of ministers?

"What is the purpose of Amendment 120a?
A: The purpose is very clear — it's to prevent copyright infringement.

It replaces Clause 17, which the Lib Dems opposed, does it not?
It's a much more specific way of replacing Clause 17. We took objection to the fact that the government would change copyright law by order.

We kept saying: "Show us a situation where you think you're going to need this kind of power." The government, frankly, didn't come back, but we came to the conclusion with the Conservative front bench that this was a matter of doing something now to prevent some of these overseas websites infringing copyright and getting away with it. It's a growing problem.:"

And also apparently from the LibDem camp an interesting piece by Lee Griffin defending am 120a - some points I vigorously disagree with (no bad law should pass on the assumption the courts will be too sensible to enforce it, an idea which seems to permeate this debate)l but also some good sense:

"What 120a doesn’t tackle in any way shape or form is the current problem which is of the copyright owner having to pass a burden of proof before they are able to send threatening legal literature. The same can be said for our libel laws."

I am begining to think this lack of pror obligation on the rightsholders to meet a standard of proof of evidence before sanctions are taken is the key point for all parts of the DEB : whether it's the BPI (say) sending 1 million allegations of filesharing to ISPs to pass on to users as notifications, or the same body asking ISPs to block a site without any need for proof of its "business model" being based on piracy, in the sure knowledge that 99 out of 100 ISPs will not demand a court order where they could get stuck with the costs.

Take another area of law. UK ISPs uniformly refuse to give out subscriber details without a court order (a "Norwich Pharmacal" order) because they believe to do so would breach the data protection act. Would it be so difficult to devise a law which made it illegal for an ISP to be bullied into blocking a site (or "online location") without a court order? Then the safeguards in am 120a would actually have some traction. Of course this opens a whole can of worms about non-court ordained blocking of sites by ISPs for other purposes; notably because they appear to be spammers or distributors of malware, or , controversially, as a result of the extralegal IWF blocklist for sites hosting images of child sexual abuse. But it is still, I think, worth a thought.

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