Lord Clement-Jones on the Digital Economy Bill: web blocking amendment

The Digital Economy Bill, currently at the report stage in the Lords has caused concern, as Lib Dem peers Lord Razzall and Lord Clement-Jones are seeking an amendment to allow site blocking for copyright infringement.

Earlier this week, Open Rights Group posted an appeal for people to write to the peers, asking them to drop the amendment.

Here, Lord Tim Clement-Jones sets out his response:

The Digital Economy Bill, as currently drafted, only deals with a certain type of copyright infringement, namely peer-to-peer file sharing. Around 35% of all online copyright infringement takes place on non peer-to-peer sites and services. Particular threats concern “cyberlockers” which are hosted abroad.

There are websites which consistently infringe copyright, many of them based outside the UK in countries such as Russia and beyond the jurisdiction of the UK courts. Many of these websites refuse to stop supplying access to illegal content.

It is a result of this situation that the Liberal Democrats have tabled an amendment in the Lords which has the support of the Conservatives that enables the High Court to grant an injunction requiring Internet Service Providers to block access to sites.

The amendment (amendment 120A) has generated some concern on the internet in the last few days.

Amendment 120A makes an explicit reference to human rights implications being taken into consideration by the Courts whilst they consider the imposition of an injunction. Such a safeguard is paramount to our concerns.

The intention is also for the injunction to only be possible for sites where there is a substantial proportion of infringing material that is either hosted by that particular site or is accessed through the particular site in question.

The injunction will only be granted where copyright owners had first requested ISP’s to block access to the site and where they had also requested the site operator to stop providing access to the infringing material (either by removing the material itself or removing the ability to access the material).

There already exists a remedy under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act (section 97A) which grants copyright owners a broad power to apply to the Court for an injunction. Therefore, all amendment 120A does is enhance this power by giving copyright owners a more clearly defined route.

Site blocking is not a new phenomenon, the most well-known being the recommended list of sites to block provided by the Internet Watch Foundation

Clause 17, the Government’s completely objectionable power to enable the Secretary of State to attempt to amend copyright law at any time is deleted by the joint Lib Dem and Conservative amendment.

Unlike Clause 17, amendment 120A depoliticises the process. The amendment will ensure any action will be heard before the High Court. The liberal principle of equality before the law remains intact allowing both sides to make their case before a judge, not by appeal to the Secretary of State.

Before making an injunction, under the amendment the Court has to have regard to whether the copyright owner has made reasonable efforts to facilitate legal access. This is designed to ensure that copyright owners continue to develop innovative ways of enabling their material to be accessed online legally, such as Spotify, before turning to legal action.

To conclude, the Lib Dems are not seeking to censor the internet but are responding to genuine concerns from the creative industries about providing a process whereby their material can be satisfactorily accessed legally.

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UPDATE: There’s been a vigorous debate in the party since this post, including an open letter from 25+ Liberal Democrat Parliamentary candidates opposing the amendment. See the update here for more information.

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236 Comments

  • The intention is also for the injunction to only be possible for sites where there is a substantial proportion of infringing material that is either hosted by that particular site or is accessed through the particular site in question.

    What proportion of material is required to qualify as “substantial”? 1%? 2%? 10%? 50%? “Substantial” is a word that is open to a very wide degree of interpretation. In short, is this something that could apply to YouTube, which undoubtedly does contain copyrighted materials from time to time?

    The injunction will only be granted where copyright owners had first requested ISP’s to block access to the site and where they had also requested the site operator to stop providing access to the infringing material (either by removing the material itself or removing the ability to access the material).

    If this is what you intend, I think that you may have mis-drafted your amendment. The amendment sets out the following steps:

    1) The service provider is notified of the allegedly offending content
    2) If the service provider does nothing, an injunction is issued to both the service provider and the operator. We can assume here that if we are talking about, say, a blog then the service provider is whoever owns the physical hardware and network connections, and the operator is the person or business who pays them for hosting.
    3) If the injunction is ignored, blocking can take place

    In contrast to your above quote, the amendment does not require the operator to be notified, merely the service provider. To quote from the amendment:

    (b) the owner of copyright before making the application made a written request to the service provider giving it a reasonable period of time to take measures to prevent its service being used to access the specified online location in the injunction, and no steps were taken,

    the Court shall order the service provider to pay the copyright owner’s costs of the application unless there were exceptional circumstances justifying the service provider’s failure to prevent access despite notification by the copyright owner.

    As you can see, there is no mention of any requirement to contact the operator prior to the injunction. This is vitally important as the operator is likely to be the only person with the ability to actually modify or delete content on the site. The service provider has only the option to take down the entire site.

    Site blocking is not a new phenomenon, the most well-known being the recommended list of sites to block provided by the Internet Watch Foundation

    This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the concept. The IWF remains a controversial and relatively unaccountable body, whose past attempts at censorship have frequently been ham-fisted and counter-productive.

    By and large, I don’t see too much to object to in what you’re trying to do. I think there’s a discrepancy between the process you describe and the process outlined by the amendment, and that somewhat undermines any other argument you’ve made. In practice, this amendment will be used to place service providers in a position where they have to remove entire sites from the web or face legal costs. As there is no requirement to contact the operator of the site prior to the injunction, it is likely that the first that they will know of it is when their site is taken offline by the (regrettably but understandably) cautious actions of their service provider.

    As a further safeguard I think the process should be spelled out in much greater detail. Far too much of this amendment hinges on the interpretation of words such as ‘reasonable’ and ‘substantial’. It would be better to give clearer guidance, and also to spell out the timescales within which operators and service providers are meant to respond to any enquiry and to any injunction. Furthermore it should be made clear that any ‘blocking’ action taken should apply to the smallest amount of content possible; it should be ‘surgical’ in nature, blocking only the offending content and not any other content that may be hosted on the same site (or on the same physical server). This is an important safeguard not mentioned at all.

  • Andrew Suffield 3rd Mar '10 - 5:10pm

    Okay, on the one hand, it’s better than the clause it is replacing, and it’s not actually a new web-blocking law, just an update to an existing one.

    On the other, we still don’t need or want a web-blocking law.

  • Another Mark 3rd Mar '10 - 5:12pm

    What will this blocking achieve, apart from minor inconvenience? Any blocked site can easily be accessed through a proxy server.

  • As if the fact that the Internet Watch Foundation exists is an argument for further censorship.

    The IWF just goes to show how unaccountable, draconian and opaque internet censorship can be, even in a relatively free, tolerant society such as Britain. For those not in the know, they’ve censored Wikipedia; on Virgin Media, at least, there was no way to tell the page had been censored, merely a false “404 not found” error. And this without any form of democratic mandate or public scrutiny of what they’re doing.

    Slightly more on topic, I’m worried how this amendment seems biased in favour of the accuser rather than the accused.

  • Another Mark 3rd Mar '10 - 5:25pm

    *looks around for another to party to vote for in May*

  • Congratulations guys!
    You’ve just lost the vote and trust of thousands of UK geeks.

  • Stuart Moore 3rd Mar '10 - 5:47pm

    I joined the party last week. This really isn’t what I was expecting to see.

    Alex Wilcock puts it well. I believe your intentions are good – but the execution is poor. Please change the amendment

  • Haha – there goes your vote. Jesus, politics gets more corrupt by the day….

  • John Harding 3rd Mar '10 - 7:43pm

    There are many things wrong with this bill, and this amendment is even worse, but I ask what would happen in this set of circumstances?

    Imagine, a failing company makes an unfounded allegation that an open-source operating system contains their copyrighted code and seeks through legal means to stop the distribution of this open-source operating system. Everyone knows that this is wrong, but some hosters stop hosting copies of the operating system, just in case.

    This amendment would have taken that operating system offline. And just so you know, that example is what SCO UNIX, a company that folded a couple of years ago, did to Linux, the OS at the heart of a large proportion of the Internet.

    Your amendment will help destroy the UK’s ability to compete even more than the current unamended Digital Economy Bill.

    Please withdraw it.

  • Well done. You’ve achieved the seemingly impossible.
    Taken an already draconian bill and made it even worse, and turned the UK’s internet into a police state.
    This will mean the death of any site with user generated content, such as YouTube or Blogger.
    I’ll never vote for the Liberal Democrats again.

  • By making ISPs liable for the costs of obtaining an injunction if they don’t act upon an allegation, you’re preventing those cases from ever getting to court. They can’t afford to take the risk of a big legal bill, so they will be forced to act upon any allegation of infringement, no matter how unsubstantiated.

    ISPs must be able to reject allegations that they believe to be unfounded with no financial risk to themselves. They can only be liable for costs if they fail to act after receiving an injunction. Otherwise, you are simply bypassing due process.

    Also, there is no provision that I can see for penalties for unfounded allegations of copyright infringement. For the sake of balance, these must be present.

  • Apart from the BPI, who mostly represents the interests of US based corporations, the lib dems have consulted absolutely nobody on this… in fact this amendment was written by the BPI. FOI and judicial review come to mind.

    Just a question “service provider” as stated in the amendment, does that include schools, universities, libraries, hotels…

    and what if the service provider is not based in the UK – UK courts do not have global jurisdiction, but the internet is global.

    Other than ensuring that no service provider will headquarter in the UK, or even open an office here, this provision will achieve absolutely nothing. .. well apart from losing the Lib Dems and the Conservatives vital votes in what will be a very close election.

    Some time ago the Conservatives asked stakeholders why there is no “UK Google”… maybe the lib dems can answer that question.

    Well done for supporting the UK digital economy.

    Fail on a grand scale.

  • Keith Mitchell 3rd Mar '10 - 10:24pm

    This amendment demonstrates how deeply hostile the UK has become towards the Internet industry. As both a lifelong LIbDem voter and a now-expat founder of that industry, with this amendment you’ve just lost me making the effort to vote for the LibDems at the next election, and I really don’t see me taking my skills back to the UK for the forseeable future.

  • This amendment is madness. Sheer madness. I do not think that Lord Clement-Jones has any kind of understanding of the issues at stake here. It would now appear that every single mainstream political party has bypassed ever argument made online rights groups, copyright reform groups, and internet bloggers, and fallen into line with the views of large media and entertainment companies.

    Today is a black day for internet users in the UK.

  • Robin Clarke 3rd Mar '10 - 10:57pm

    Horrifying rights-trampling idiocy worthy of China or Australia.

    The next general election would have been the first time I voted Lib Dem. Not any more.

  • If we lose the LibDems on this stuff then the outlook is pretty dire.

    If artists, creative types, consumers and people who understand and love the Internet had done the secret drafting and lobbying work behind this legislation it would look very different indeed.

  • Unbelievable. The Liberal Democrats have just killed the internet.
    The UK can say goodbye to YouTube
    … and the LibDems can say goodbye to a million votes.
    Well done.

  • Andrew Cormack 4th Mar '10 - 7:48am

    It’s not necessary to take James Blessing’s word for the fact that ISPs can’t prevent their customers accessing websites. The Internet Watch Foundation’s own site states quite clearly:

    Blocking is designed to protect people from inadvertent access to potentially illegal images of child sexual abuse. No known technology is capable of effectively denying determined criminals who are actively seeking such material; only removal of the content at source can achieve that goal.

    People clearly are “actively seeking” copyright infringing material, so attempting to prevent that by technical means will simply promote the use of the simple techniques that allow them to disable all protective and preventive measures provided by their ISPs.

  • What angers me about this is the extent to which Tim Clement-Jones’ position appears to be based on an ignorance of what he’s legislating on. As I pointed out in my first comment, the amendment makes a very weak distinction between the site operator and the service provider, and from the transcripts I’ve read of the debate, it appears that Tim isn’t particularly aware of this distinction at all. Now, I don’t expect a typical Lord to know anywhere near as much about the internet as the typical Lib Dem Voice commenter, but I expect them to be able to find someone to explain these things to them before they start writing laws.

    This post sets out a fairly even-handed treatment of what has happened and accurately captures the sense of bewildered despair at the party’s behaviour on this matter. Personally, I’m at a loss to understand it, and can only assume that some combination of ignorance and misguided somethingmustbedonery has caused Lord Clement-Jones to overreach both his understanding of the issues and his support within the membership of the party. I can well understand that he thinks that he’s done the right thing in getting rid of the old clause 17, and I agree that this is an achievement. If only the replacement were better thought-out, we might be saluting a triumph instead of despairing at a missed opportunity.

  • I’ve been a LibDem voter for many years but you’ve totally lost my vote this time.

    You failed to come up with any clear position on this when it was essential that you did (indeed, as far as I can tell from Don Foster et al, you’re more or less in support of it).

    That this is some kind of “wrecking amendment” doesn’t wash with me at all. The notion that this amendment will not pass more or less unscathed through the Commons is absurd.

  • Way to alienate our target demographic, here. This morning finds me feeling rather ashamed of us.

  • Richard Wilson 4th Mar '10 - 10:51am

    Who is this guy and why is he representing the Liberal Democrats? Here are some of Lord Clement Jones outside interests, from: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld/ldreg/reg06.htm

    CLEMENT-JONES, Lord

    *12(b) Parliamentary lobbying

    Partner of DLA Piper (international law firm) and adviser to its global government relations practice.

    The member is paid £70,000 in respect of his services as Co-Chairman of DLA Piper’s global government relations practice

    The member acts personally for TransMedics Inc, a medical technology manufacturer

    The member acts personally for Eli Lilly and Company, the pharmaceutical manufacturer

    The member acts personally for University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate

    The member acts personally for Raytheon Company a defence and homeland security technology company

    Whose interests is he really representing here?

  • Richard Wilson 4th Mar '10 - 11:05am

    …ooh, and surprise surprise, according to their website. Clement-Jones’ employers, DLA Piper, have:

    “one of the largest groups of IP lawyers in the world… When disputes arise, your commercial objectives are our main concern… Our IP experience includes IP litigation as well as representation in areas such as applications, prosecution, and filings for patents, trademarks, and copyrights… The ability to advise on all aspects of technology law expands the efficiencies and breadth of service for our clients – we offer advice on all related IP matters such as advertising and promotion law, data security, digital media content, e-commerce/Internet transactions, and privacy protection. We also help develop compliance programs in response to new corporate policies or national and local government regulations, including IP, privacy, or quality control audits.

    Wherever you are, and whatever your industry, you need people you can trust to meet your IP business objectives…

    Absolutely clear cut conflict of interest here. This is just so unbelievably blatant.

  • My reading of the bill (and the amendment) is that it starts with a misunderstanding of who creates content in the internet age and how. If large publishers were the *only* significant source of new content, then it all makes sense. However, as most comments on here recognise, it’s actually a bit more complicated than that. One example – in my own workplace I commission educational exhibitions. I use web-lockers to exchange proofs of large images with external freelance designers and writers. The content is created collaboratively, and we rely on the privacy these services offer to make sure that only the final version (with all the embarrassing errors removed!) becomes public. This is a microcosm of work within the UK creative industries which rely on cheap (or free), reliable and secure digital infrastructure. Removing elements of this, or making it prohibitively expensive, damages UK competitiveness. This is before considering non-commercial activity and issues of social justice. I’m not a party member, but I desperately want to be able to support you at the election. However, actions like this serve to confirm the Liberal Democrats as the “almost, but not quite” party once again. Tragic.

  • Richard Wilson 4th Mar '10 - 11:36am

    Jock: “one of the foremost libertarian campaigners *against* intellectual property law, Stephan Kinsella, of whose pamphlet “Against Intellectual Property” I recently recorded an audiobook is…you guessed it, a US patent attorney. So it’s not necessarily an indicator of one’s personal position.”

    Sure – but the guy does get paid £70,000 a year by a firm that would stand to gain a great deal from the state having more sweeping powers to suppress real-or-imagined copyright infringements. Call me uncharitable, but when it’s this blatant it does seem reasonable to wonder if there might be a connection…

  • Randy Orrison 4th Mar '10 - 12:39pm

    Are these amendments the policy of the LibDem party, or just these particular industry shills? Are there any parties out there that actually represent the people, instead of big businesses?

  • “Don’t judge us on the basis of two guys getting it wrong” – I thought the Lib Dems were a party where things like this are discussed.

    If not, then the problem is not restricted to two guys…

  • Where’s Richard Allan when you need him?

  • John Reynolds 4th Mar '10 - 2:35pm

    This is madness. These Lords clearly have no understanding of the Internet. Won’t be voting for Lib Dems now.

  • It’s now a day since this was posted, there are over 100 comments, and Tim Clement-Jones has not been along to address any of the serious issues raised here. Do you intend to actually have a dialogue with the voters on this website, or is it merely a mouthpiece for dissemination of the Holy Writ according to the Lib Dems?

  • Antony Hook 4th Mar '10 - 3:24pm

    What started as something wrong and a vote loser now has potential to be a good advertisement for the democratic nature of this possible.

    In Labour or the Tories, could the Party Conference take a vote to stop two peers making such a big mistake? Undoubtedly not.

  • Charles Marsh 4th Mar '10 - 4:28pm

    Amendment 120A has introduced what could be called the Pirate Bay-RapidShare clause. However, in both of these high profile examples, they are being taken to task through their local courts. It would be perverse to introduce UK legislation claiming it is necessary to cover deficits in other countries’ legislation, where those deficits do not exist.

    I am not aware of Russia being especially well known for hosting ‘cyberlocker’ services, so I can only assume the reference to Russia relates to sites such as MP3sparks (formerly AllofMP3) that sell access to music. And, herein lies the issue. The clause refers to copyright infringement, but infringement on whose terms? It is with reference to UK copyright law. The Russian music websites came into existence due to the unique copyright law of that country, and are legal in Russia.

    Any website in a country whose copyright law is not at least as restrictive as the UK’s in all respects is put at risk by this clause. A foreign site may host material that is completely lawful within its jurisdiction, because it has a strong fair use/fair dealing defence there. It may not enjoy that defence in the UK courts, and so is at risk of being blocked.

    Similarly, copyright term length differs from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. A foreign site may provide access to historical works all of which are in the public domain within its jurisdiction. If a substantial proportion are not in the public domain in the UK, it is at risk of being blocked.

    When those resident in the UK look out at the rest of the world using the Internet, should their view be filter through the lens of UK copyright legislation?

  • Mike Richards 4th Mar '10 - 6:29pm

    Sadly I think Lord Clement-Jones knows exactly what he’s done. He’s produced an amendment that might as well have been written by a law company specialising in IP litigation. Which is surely no coincidence when he accepts tens of thousands of Pounds every year from… one of the biggest IP lawyer companies in the UK who have acted on behalf of RIAA and the MPAA. Even if this amendment was proposed with the best will in the world, it looks sleazy plain and simple and I find it hard to believe his Lordship cannot have seen that.

    It’s a sad day for the LibDems when they’re actively trying to strangle free expression. Perhaps they’re hoping to be invited on to Geffen’s yacht with Mandelson next year?

    If this amendment stands I’ll be taking my vote (in a LibDem marginal seat BTW) elsewhere. Is no one senior in the Party going to comment on this issue – if not here, then somewhere?

  • More unfettered big brother powers.
    I won’t be voring for Lib Dems now.

  • What irritates me about this is judging from Tim’s initial post here, he was aware of the objections to this amendment before he pushed it through. There’s even a link to the ORG appeal page which cotains copies of letters I and other people sent to him explaining why this was such a flawed idea, which means he must have read them, but continued regardless. This gives the impression that he knew exactly what he was doing.

  • £70,000 per annum to sell out the country and undermine commercial potential is a really ‘cheap date’. As an earlier responder has already intimated – deduct one more supporter for the Liberal Democrats. This is totally outrageous!

  • I was going to vote LibDem in the forthcoming election.

    After this farce, I’m not.

    Talk about selling out on liberal principles.

  • “Amendment 120A makes an explicit reference to human rights implications being taken into consideration by the Courts whilst they consider the imposition of an injunction. Such a safeguard is paramount to our concerns.”

    Tim – this is nonsense and the amendment says nothing of the sort. Human Rights concerns are only listed as one of several factors the courts should take into account. Nothing is said about the different weight that should be applied to the factors listed.

    If you think they should be a paramount concern then the amendment should say so. eg with a further amendment along the lines of:
    “(2) In determining whether to grant an injunction under subsection (1), the Court shall have particular regard for the importance of preserving human rights, including freedom of expression, and the right to property.”

    Though I suspect the courts might not love you for evermore for asking them to make two conflicting rights the key consideration.

    It’s a legal nonsense to include such a sub-section IMO. The court is already under such a duty under the Human Rights Act, which provides particular protection against injuctive relief for freedom of expression under s.12. You might just as well have drafted it to say “The courts shall consider such an application no differently to any other application”

  • In my area the next election choice the choice of keeping Labour or the Tories out is between the Green or the Lib-Dems. Lord clement-Jones idiocy has allowed me to choose.

  • In the event that this hideous mess is not resolved, I suggest those who understand that a free and open approach to technology and intellectual property is a requirement for economic success in the 21st century start preparing for the future.

  • John Harding 4th Mar '10 - 10:04pm

    Nick >> I am a member of Pirate Party UK but I see them as a political pressure group, just as the Greens were until recently. I know they had some success in Sweden but I think it will be a long time, if ever, until they are a viable party.

    Would still like to find a mainstream party that I can support but I think I must just be a bit too liberal for any of them!

  • David Allen 4th Mar '10 - 10:37pm

    A naive and no doubt ignorant question from a non-geek.

    Do the posters on this thread argue that a blind eye should be turned to internet piracy? Or, do they think that internet censorship is outrageous and that piracy is a much lesser evil? Or, that piracy is bad but there are better ways to deal with it? Or what?

  • “what the research shows is that the people that download large amount of content actually spend *more* per capita on digital content than other users as they frequently sample content and if they like it then buy the material later.”

    This is however a commercial reason why copyright holders (in some instances) should take a relaxed view to material being distributed without their approval and at no cost.

    It doesn’t follow that there should be no legislation which allows copyright holders to enforce their rights. As an example I have produced several campaign guide books to help Liberal Democrats win elections. I actively don’t want those to be distributed freely as I only want Liberal Democrats to get them.

    I’ve also produced stuff for legal subscriber services – again without any copyright protection they would be unable to market their services (basically publically available legislation with value added commentary).

    At its core the idea of copyright and IP is that someone is entitled to benefit from the fruits of their labour. Whatever the flaws with the system we actually have now I think that is an important principle.

  • “I’ll try telling that to the tax man next month and see what he says.”

    Unless you are paying tax at 100% you do benefit from the fruits of your labour. Arguably market rates of pay are increased to take account of the taxmans take. This is however a point on which we are not going to agree so I’m not going to continue down that route :-)

    “When I buy something, it becomes the fruit of *my* labour. Yet IP would in that case prevent me from using the fruits of my labour, my property, however I choose.”

    That’s a valid argument – and certainly a case for a general fair usage provision in the purchase of copyright material. That could cover something along the lines of “copying onto other playback devices for genuine and reasonable personal use” (sounds vague but I think those terms are sufficiently well legally defined to be robust).

    However if I purchase a CD I have purchased one copy. I think that gives me a legitimate right freely sell or igve away one copy but I don’t see where I get the right to to that hundreds of times.

    However there is an alternative way of looking at it that you don’t purchase something out right but merely purchase a licence to use the material in the way the author allows you to. It really becomes a question of what you have “purchased”

    “we should do without IP laws.”
    That may seem superficially attractive but:
    1) In such a situation why would Westlaw pay me to produce some commentary on a piece of legislation for their subscribers if as soon as it was made available LexisNexis were to cut and paste it and post it on their sites for their subscribers? (note to employers – I’m not suggesting that either do any such thing! :-))

    2) How do I stop the Conservatives photocopying the campaign manuals I spent a considerable amount of time authoring and sending them to all their councillors?

    I’m not for one minute saying the current system is effective, fair or works in a liberal fashion (in fact when the scenario in (2) happened it was deemed too expensive to do anything about it so there is a valid question about whether any rights were actually enforceable.

  • “Is that really a copyright issue? If anyone that was a Lib Dem knew of the partisan benefits to not copying, and could get the copy for free by being a member,”

    I think photocopying a 90 page book hundreds (thousands?) of times is a pretty clear copyright issue!

    Most of it wasn’t provided free to members (there is a case that it should have been but (a) I had sales targets to meet to keep the organsation solvent and there was substantial evidence that when people paid for things they made more effort to read them and take the points on board)

    Sales were restricted to party members – The problem was when they got into the hands of the opposition

    ““I’ve also produced stuff for legal subscriber services – again without any copyright protection they would be unable to market their services (basically publically available legislation with value added commentary).”

    The question comes as to whether, like the music industry, a business model like that is sustainable in this day and age.”

    I’m not sure the case that the music industry per se is unsustainable has been made. On the legal database side some very big companies would seem to think is is! :-) Basically with a legal system based on precedent and with new legislation being produced I think there is as there will always be a market for verified and accurate commentary on legislation and cases. Something like the Weekly Law Reports may struggle more as they are substantially producing paper copies of what is available electronically in the public domain and through BAILII etc.

    Eventually the Government should get round to a proper consolidated set of legislation, update and available online – like statutelaw.gov.uk ought to be. I suspect the big legal reference services have spotted that potential danger to their business models and are moving into more value added/ease of use type services.

    The issue in that market is the viability of such things being available in book form rather than all online and kept continually up to date. All a bit niche though – not sure it will be competing with iTunes any day now though but it does make that point that IP goes wide than music and videos

  • Doug Winter 5th Mar '10 - 7:54am

    I thought this faux naïve Internet cluelessness was limited to those parties in the pockets of big content :( Or have the Lib Dems found some new investors?

  • I work in the creative industries mentioned; and the Lib Dems are losing my vote. The liberty of the Internet – human communication – is sacrosanct. This is another law about technology brewed up by people who don’t understand technology, do not understand that the economics already work (iTunes far more successful than ‘copyright theft’), who don’t understand the implications of what they’re doing, who are influenced by their own interests and the relentless bullying of lobbying interests which are in opposition to the interests of voters. It sounds rather like some Lib Dems are getting into bed with the Tories like a Conservative surrogate: and that is precisely what one does not want from them.

    I’m not a one-issue voter; but if this is what the Lib Dems are becoming, they’re not representing me.

    All these type of laws endanger reasonable liberty – even if that’s not their explicit intention.

  • John Wilkinson 5th Mar '10 - 9:51am

    Hello, are we China now? In China it may be state control; in the UK it is increasingly Big Business control. The outcome for the vast majority of citizens is the same. Of course, one unintended consequence of this legislation will be the malicious uploading of copyright materials to user-generated content sites precisely in order to ensure they are ‘taken down’. Imagine, i could paste various excepts from Murdoch publications here and if the Service Provider did not move fast enough (within 30mins would seem ‘reasonable’ in this high bandwidth age), the entire libdemvoice.org site could become decidedly voiceless. Of course, such mass ‘protest’ could make the legislation entirely unworkable (and no I am not ‘inciting’ such protest in case any Watchers are watching).

    Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, the three tools of insecure government and business.

  • I wholeheartedly agree with Alex’s comment above.
    Furthermore the lib dems have most definateley lost my vote as a result of this ammendment

  • This thread has been a very interesting read. I have followed it for the last three days having had it brought to my attention from a technical newsgroup to which I belong. I have to say that what is not being commented on, or it is but no answer is being offered, is that a Lib Dem Lord is not be admonished for bring influence to a Bill when it appears he so obviously has a conflict of Interests. I would really like to know the party’s take on these kind of matters, and how it goes forward with seeming double standards. You listen to Question time week in and week out that the people are feed up with the lies and back handers that go on in politics, you would think that any worthy party would be seen to crack down hard on this kind of influence and commercialism from third parties especially on something as vitally important and future facing as the web blocking amendment Bill.

  • Okay, but why did the grass roots allow such a clear conflict of interest?

  • Forget expenses, the real stink of corruption comes from the huge amounts of cash that many legislators – both peers & MPs – get as ‘consultants’, directors etc from outside interests.

    These financial interests are declared in the Register of Members’ Interests, but peers and MPs are not barred from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest. This is quite unbelievable.

    Why are MPs and peers not subject to the same laws on financial interest as local councillors? Councillors are, quite rightly, as an anti-corruption measure, barred from voting , speaking or lobbying on any matters in which they, their spouses or other close family members have financial interests.

    Why isn’t it ALREADY party policy to do this? Come on Nick Clegg, let’s hear you announce this tomorrow at the Scottish Conference.

  • Dave Page.

    You’re correct of course – I should have said that Nick Clegg should announce this as a policy idea he will be putting forward for decision by the Party in accordance with our constitution.

  • Jock.

    I understand the point you are making but don’t you think it looks bad that the peer leading for us on this has clear and CURRENT major financial interests in this legislation?

    Several posters have already pointed out the possible conflict of interest that exists.

    It just makes us look sleazy.

  • The whole system is bad.

    I can think of no reason an MP needs to be paid thousands a year to promote caravans.

  • Jock. That’s exactly what I’m saying. If a legislator has a current financial interest then they MUST be barred from voting, lobbying or speaking on legislation relating to that interest.

    If they don’t like it, then get rid of the financial interests. The expertise will still be there. I want full-time legislators who are wholly elected by PR, barred from voting on matters in which they have a financial interest.

  • To think I was actually planning on voting for the Lib Dems in May, maybe I should just spoil it now? Do you guys even think before you think up this utter rubbish?

  • Amendment 120a is completely at odds with the rights and freedoms of the individual and merely highlights just how you have failed to grasp why the IP problem exists in the first place.

    Site-blocking and censorship of content does nothing proactive to address the real issues at hand, it is simply a reactive measure sought to pander to lobbyists and add even more protectionism to an already overbearing IP culture.

    There is no doubt that the law is having a hard time keeping up with the changing pace in technology, but rather than seeking to punish those who are abusing this technology we must first ask WHY technology is being abused at the individual level, why it has become so widespread and socially acceptable, and what is lacking with current legal means for consuming content that makes file sharing and watching illegal streams so attractive to the common consumer. Rather than being intimidated, business should be excited by the internet and the ways it is allowing us to consume and disseminate information. Business should seek new ways to embrace and adapt to these changes with new business models that are open and innovative.

    IP Infringement is a global problem, and that we must seek global solutions in order to combat it effectively. Amendment 120a does nothing to fix the problems, illegal file sharing won’t simply disappear because a site was blocked, nor will illegal streaming sites disappear altogether. It’s too inexpensive for infringers to start a new site, and the demand far too great for these draconian measures to do anything but put a smile on the face of lobbyists who think they’re one step closer to winning a war that is in fact un-winnable for as long as they insist on protectionism and lawsuits being the key to containment.

    There is no doubt that file sharing is socially acceptable. There is no doubt that we have all enjoyed and consumed content on youtube that we know for a fact to be questionable in legal nature. And there is no doubt that the average consumer accepts that without advertising or a means to monetise this content, that the creative industries will be the first casualties. Internet giants like Google are not anti business, and neither are many of the sites that Amendment 120a will seek to close down.

    YouTube and Google were the first to react positively to these sweeping changes in the way that content is consumed that the democratisation of the internet is seeing emerge, and they are only too willing to work with IP rights holders and copyright owners to see that they are aptly rewarded for opening up this content. Indeed, one example close to all our hearts was the decision of the Monty Python team to shift their focus away from lawsuits and takedown notices and instead choose to work with google to react to consumer demand. The result was an official Monty Python channel that drove more DVD and Box Set sales than any other online distribution channel. We are now seeing the same happening with 4OD, BBC and countless other copyright owners who are reacting positively to consumer demand and showing a willingness to adapt business models, remove barriers and allow proliferation of their content in the online landscape.

    Given the means to consume content illegally or legally, people will choose the latter, but the choice needs to exist in the first place. ‘Freemium’ models are working, Spotify is a service that the average online music consumer has been crying out for since the days of Napster. Essentially, it is Napster, yet it is only now – 10 years later , and after many abortive attempts to quell the mass sharing of illegal music online through the law courts – that the music industry has woken up and allowed a service that was badly needed and wanted, to be given a chance to prove it can work.

    Let’s please not wait another 10 years for other creative industries to follow suit, when there is so much evidence out there that law, censorship and further legislation will do nothing to alleviate the problem.

    It’s not just the music industry through partnerships with Spotify and YouTube that have seen relaxation of copyright and licensing restrictions working in their favour. The BBC, Channel 4, ITN, countless media agencies, The Guardian Open Platform, and in the US, Comedy Central and the Hulu Web TV consortium have all been successful by opening their content up online (Hulu makes more money per web viewer from it’s online pre-roll video advertising than any of the TV networks it represents make from traditional TV advertising), and recent deals between YouTube and major record and movie / TV rights holders are just a few examples of how business can be more relaxed about IP restrictions and yet still profit through this openness and innovation and a willingness to respond to consumer need.

    Sports rights holders are of course another major concern. A recent Whitepaper (Report on Digital Piracy of Sporting Events – Alliance Against IP Theft) by NetResult (the firm responsible for policing FA / EPL sports content online amongst others), cites that the only major effect to reducing the number of viewers of illegal live streams came from establishment of strategic partnerships. The NBA, who entered into a partnership with UStream and PPLive to provide legitimate streams of its content saw a widespread reduction in piracy of its live sports content, and furthermore, provided a means for the NBA to legitimise, control and ultimately generate revenues from this content. All other attempts to reduce widespread online piracy, including takedown notices and legal action, have done nothing to reduce the problem, just as Amendment 120a, will do little to stem the tide of new sites replacing those that are blocked at the ISP level.

    In the ongoing lawsuit between YouTube and the FA, the FA lawyers likened YouTube (and Google) to old style mafia racketeers “work with us or against us, either way your content will be abused online”. In taking this stance, the FA have missed the point, and more importantly missed the Olive branch (and means to monetise illegal content) that Google extends to those businesses fearful of changing business models. I notice with interest that since those comments were made by the FA Lawyers (over a year ago now), FA TV have launched their own YouTube channel with official, freely embeddable highlights of FA Cup and England matches. A portent of the future perhaps?

    The Digital Economy Bill, especially with respect to Amendment 120a, needs a lot more work, consideration and planning. The fact that Clause 17 was so swiftly removed is testament to that. Crucially, the ministers in charge need to better understand the problem, as well as the technology, and the reason for why there is such a high demand and consumption of illegal content in the first place. This can only be achieved by increasing dialogue with the end-users (and abusers) of this technology, who presently feel isolated and criminalised. Can you honestly say that you, and the IP lobbyists truly understand this new generation of internet savvy users who no longer wish to consume their content in a traditional, linear fashion?

    Is it wrong that instead of being forced to sit through ’10 years younger’ and ‘wife swap’ and endless repeats of ‘friends’, I now choose to spend my evenings watching the Daily Show and Colbert Report (legitimately and on demand) through the web? It’s the future, and the sooner IP holders recognise this, the better off everyone will be except of course for the very people you are attempting to combat. Illegal file sharing will die a natural death at the hands of superior provisioning of legitimate services. And all of this can be achieved without lengthy and costly lawsuits and divisive legal battles.

    To conclude, I am fearful that rushing this legislation through during ‘wash up’ without proper consideration and consultation with the public will just be another step back for freedoms of the individual, and a huge step back for a party that is increasingly out of touch with its electorate.

    Furthermore, it is one that gets us nowhere nearer to solving the problem of digital piracy – Amendment 120a is nothing more than an attempt to put up a picket fence to quell an unstoppable Tsunami. I am ashamed that a party I used to support is even considering such an unworkable ‘solution’.

  • The stupidity of politicians knows no bounds. That the Lib-Dems have made the ridiculous bill even worse than it was, is disgraceful, and that they think it’s going to work is laughable. Two other countries in the world try to control the internet, China and Iran.

  • MattGB lame attempt to patronise without any facts.
    What are the equivalent infringements in internet freedom imposed
    in the US? I rent office space for my small business
    and the internet provision that goes with that will end.
    Nor will I be able to access in many public spaces, Which other
    western country would be in a similar situation?
    If this goes through, Youtube would not br allowed in
    the UK. That is China and Iran, so get a grip.

  • “so a better bill would have been to look at the licence restrictions.”

    You don’t need a bill to do that though. I agree that companies are not embracing the opportunities of new technology but I don’t see how you legislate for them to do that. Whether we should legislate to stop people running their businesses in a stupid way is a debateable argument.

    And doing away with copyright full stop – as the more extreme elements suggest – won’t help such distribution mechanisms develop as there will be no profit incentive to drive it if anyone can do it without paying the producers of Avatar/The Hurt Locker/An Education for doing that. (and profits have driven the development of other communication streams since the days of the penny post)

  • It’s incredible how “Lib-Dems” behind this site insist this bill is not going to infringe on the liberties of people to browse the internet, download legally, visit sites without being watched by ISP’s, all on demand of the government.

    In the real world, I have already been told that the offices my small company rents will no longer be provided with internet access should this bill go through.

    Even the landlord of my local pub which provides internet access has said that if the bill goes through he will no longer provide internet access to his customers. Quite simply, because the bill says that thehe will be held responsible for illegal downloads of anyone using his internet facility.

    And the ridiculous thing is that my 11-year-old son knows that the whole bill is totally unworkable. Politicians may be good at fiddling their expenses but they know nothing about fiddling technology.

    To hide your IP address takes 10 seconds. To set up a company in a comparitively free country like Russia and get them to do the downloads and send them off to you in a country like Britain is no big deal at all.

    Americans I know, rightly, believe we are in there with China and Iran and I totally agree with them.

    Politicians in the UK have an insatiable appetitetite to control the people, from local government to Lib Dem lunatics and that idiot Cameron. You have already won on smoking, drinking, global warming etc, just leave the internet alone.

  • David Allen 7th Mar '10 - 11:34pm

    “If a legislator has a current financial interest then they MUST be barred from voting, lobbying or speaking on legislation relating to that interest. If they don’t like it, then get rid of the financial interests.”

    It pains me to claim that local government has any claims to wisdom, but in this case, it seems that it does. Financial interests are rife. However, declarations of those interests are often properly made. Hence, people with financial interests do very often withdraw from voting, lobbying and speaking on issues relating to those interests, as they should do. Parliament must catch up.

    Though we are less culpable than the other two parties, we should be the first to clean up our act. Just listen to what is happening. “Ashcroft is not special” say the Tories “we are all as bad as one another”. This is a huge Tory lie, but many people believe it.

    We need to cast the first stone. Before we can do that, we need to dismantle the glass house we have built for ourselves!

  • MattGB

    From http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/feature/1595144/lib-dems-cock-digital-freedom

    The Liberal Democrats forced through a surprise amendment to the Bill’s notorious clause 17 or “three strikes and you’re out” clause. Instead of sweeping new powers that threatened major alterations to British copyright law, the Lib Dems added a clause that gives extra oversight to the high court.

    The new proposal, passed in the House of Lords by 165 votes to 140, gives a bewigged one 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.

    If that’s true tell me how we in the UK will still be able to access YouTube, for there is no doubt that YouTube does host a substantial amount of copyright infriging material. And please explain what is innacurate in The Inquirer’s report to exonerate the Lib-Dems from this travesty against our freedom?

    And also explain to me how the bill as a whole is going to be policed. Everyone who uses a laptop know it’s unworkable, but SME’s in the UK will still be hurt badly.

    Meanwhile, our politicians have encouraged a whole new industry for people who don’t mind flouting copyright law. Go to a (comparitively) free country like Russia and export from there to the UK via ftp/email or numerous other methods the latest blockbuster films and musical hits. It’s so easily bypassed it’s laughable.

    I repeat: idiot and (often) corrupt politicians in the UK today have an insatiable appetite to rule our lives. While we freeze, they will tax us because of global warming, they will discourage us from drinking, smoking, driving our car…and now they have their sights set on controlling our internet use.

    You have even less chance of your internet bill working than Prohibition worked in the US. But keep on going.

  • MattGB>

    “Far greater legal minds than mine are debating whether ’substantial’ has a strong enough definition and whether it needs further clarification.”

    LOL. It’s precisely because “substantial” can’t be defined that makes the Lib-Dem clause even more ridiculous.

    Of course, no UK government is going to close down Youtube because if they did everyone in the country under 30 would belatedly become aware of what sort of country we have become.

    But according to the clause of the bill, Youtube should certainly be unavailable to anyone in the UK. It is unquestionable that a substantial amount (I’d call 25% substantial) of the material they host infriges copyright law.

    But the bill won’t be used to close down Youtube; it will be used to close down far smaller sites on the whim of whoever it is going to be that will be policing the people’s internet habits.

    At present, many of us prefer to buy DVD’s and music legally. But this bill is such an affront to our freedom to use the internet that if it ever comes into being I will go out of my way to download pirated movies and music.

    And you are still not answering the question. You might bully the ISP’s into revealing our internet behaviour, but what are you going to do thereafter? Check our email attachments, our ftp files, our Dropbox accounts?

    I have a Dropbox account for 50gb. That’s 60 movies. How are you going to stop my mates in the free world, AKA China, Russia or Iran downloading films or music and passing them on to me?

    It’s a ridiculous bill and dreadful for this country that gets more and more totalitarian by the day, thanks to G Brown and the incomptence of the Tories and the Lib-Dems.

    The bill is already making us a laughing stock in the US (the country that is surely losing most in film & music revenue from illegal downloads) and even more dubious regimes will be wondering what has happened to the Britain that once stood for freedom and liberty.

    On the plus side, if it comes into being I’ll move to Russia and flog illegal downloads to the UK at 50p a pop.

    And how will the Lib-Dems stop me?

  • Floating voter rapidly floating away from Liberals

  • Lee asked for debate, well here’s some. The stupidity of the bill has been discussed and articulated above, on other lib dem websites and indeed on hundreds of other web sites across the internet, so I don’t propose to list these, indeed the emergency motion is just about spot on. However to have some debate, lets discuss 120a’s amazing timing (amazingly poor timing that is). A very unpopular law being brought in by the labour party just before a national election has now become known as a lib dem motion – look at web sites everywhere they almost all think its a poor motion and they all refer to it as a lib dem amendment. Talk about shooting yourselves in the foot. The fact is that the emergency motion may pass but Lib Dems don’t have enough seats to defeat the bill – the damage is done. I could go on but I won’t.

  • Can we, members of the public, lobby Lord Clement-Jones like the creative industry does? I mean, there must be some kind of a sum that can be ‘donated’ to the party causes to influence his opinion. Hell, we’ll even pitch it for a trip to Maldives!

    We want to make our voices heard in the same ‘special way’ as the creative industry does, as I don’t see them posting comments on your blog like the rest of us do.

    We want to tell you that if the creative industry wants to shut down a website in Russia, they should do so in Russia, not in the UK (they’ve succeeded in this with allofmp3.com, they can do so with others). They consider themselves to be a global business, but obviously cannot play by global rules and ride the wave on the back of countries like the UK, where people do buy music legitimately. But our wallets are only this deep, and if they want to be pleasing shareholders year on year, they have to come up with other ways to do their business.

    They should wake up and realise that it’s about the consumer choice – if I choose to pay for Spotify instead if iTunes but Spotify has only half of the studios in its catalogue, whose fault is this? People do want to pay for the content on the platform of their choice, but if the labels don’t give it to them because they haven’t worked out their digital business plan in the last decade, it’s their fault. Although, I understand that telling you guys all this is like banging my head against the wall.

    The creative industry is a BUSINESS and no democratic country should allow any business to intervene into lawmaking process on this scale. Business is about competition and in no way must it be given the right to influence the state to protect its interests that result in forceful and invasive actions against the citizens, who are in their overwhelming majority its consumers.

    But after all, it seems this type of amendment is convenient for the both parties. The creative industry, using dubious and error-prone detection methods, would be able to force the denial of a modern basic right to the citizens of the state and the state can use this amendment as a launchpad for even more restrictive measures in the future. The Internet must be regulated only in its social aspect, and no business must have an impact on its operation in any detrimental way, just like no business has an impact on the UK’s road system.

    The creative industry isn’t without its problems, but they can blame only themselves for the majority of them.

    Oh, another thing – seems like LibDems are forgetting what being ‘liberal’ and being a ‘democrat’ stand for. In this case it is on-way traffic and feels like you are more corporate pluralists, just like the Tories and Labour.

    P.S. Please get back to us with regards to that Maldives offer or any other that we can take to make you re-consider your stance and listen to BOTH parties.

  • S. Merchant 16th Mar '10 - 4:05pm

    If this was about preserving Britons Digital future where are the provisions for helping web developers, chip manufacturers like ARM who are world leaders?? instead we receive this autocratic tripe that is grounded in preserving the last centuries business model. Look forward to ‘enjoying’ a censored/policed internet, either under Mandy or the courts with no real provision for challenging what can very easily be dubious data with the most basic know-how, let alone small businesses and innocent men and women who will have their accounts hacked into.

    Innocent until proven guilty? Forget it. The next time we lecture the Chinese I wont know whether to laugh or cry.

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