Critics slam secrecy of web-blocking talks

The Open Right Group has called for an end to the cloak-and-dagger secrecy surrounding proposals to introduce web blocking.

Critics slam secrecy of web-blocking talks

The concept of blocking sites hosting “illegal” downloads was included in the Digital Economy Act, but has taken centre stage as the High Court considers the merits of the Act in a prolonged judicial review.

Now, the rights holders are in discussions with ISPs and Government officials, but there is no public debate on the issue.

“I have asked rights holders to disclose their proposals so we can debate them in public,” Jim Killock, the chief executive of the Open Rights Group, told PC Pro. “At the moment, all the discussions are going on behind closed doors and we haven’t heard any details about what is being planned.

“It seems like they are against doing this through legislation and so are seeking a private arrangement between the rights holders and ISPs, which isn’t right at all.”

The ORG and three other consumer rights watchdogs have written an open letter to the BPI calling for greater openness in the debate.

“We understand that the BPI met with ISPs, internet companies and Government minister Ed Vaizey on 4 April to discuss a private website blocking proposal in order to combat online copyright infringement,” the consumer groups wrote in the open letter.

“Website blocks, if widespread and compulsory for the vast majority of UK citizens, is a law enforcement task. It is a function of wide public interest affecting fundamental rights. It is therefore an activity that should be subject to human rights considerations and an open public debate.”

The letter came only hours after a top European legal adviser questioned the validity of blocking schemes.

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