ISPA is outraged that amendment 120A to the Digital Economy Bill was voted through in the House of Lords today.
Whilst we appreciate the concern of opposition front benches to clause 17, we regret that this amendment has been hastily constructed and rushed through at report stage without due consideration of the implications or consultation with the interested parties that would be affected. In the words of Shadow Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt "trying to rush through controversial powers at the tail end of a Parliament is simply no way to make law and not something we will be supporting".
The many associated legal, technical and practical issues have simply not been debated in nearly enough depth. For a policy of such gravity, this is negligent.
Lord Clement-Jones correctly noted in proposing his amendment that the courts in fact already have the power under Section 97A of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act to grant an injunction requiring ISPs to block access to sites that contain unlawful copyright content. ISPA would agree that 97A strikes an appropriate balance between the interests of different parties and leaves the court free to consider each claim on its merits and independently of other factors. Amendment 120A, however, abandons this balance, introduces a bias in favour of one party (rightsowners) and limits the court's discretion to judge each case on its merits.
ISPA is particularly disappointed that the Lords supporting this amendment drew parallels with the model of network-level blocking administered by the Internet Watch Foundation. The suggestion that a framework developed to fight against the distribution of criminal images of child sexual abuse is appropriate to tackle allegations of civil copyright infringement is incomprehensible.
This amendment is misjudged and disproportionate and this Bill is a wholly inappropriate place to introduce this debate. Other countries have explored similar policy options but surfaced these concerns and focused their policy debate accordingly on the most egregious content offences in the cases where the policy has progressed at all. ISPA has been a long term advocate against any form of network level blocking, as it is only effective in reducing inadvertent access, and believes the Peers behind this amendment should consider the available research, which supports this view.
Nicholas Lansman, ISPA Secretary-General, said "ISPA has been supportive of Peers' excellent scrutiny of the Bill to date. However, in this instance, our members are extremely concerned that the full implications of the amendment have not been understood and that the reasoning behind the amendment is wholly misguided. We would therefore urge the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to urgently reconsider their position."
Notes to the editor:
The Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) was established in 1995 as a trade association to represent providers of Internet services in the UK. ISPA promotes competition, self-regulation and the development of the Internet industry. For a list of members or other information about ISPA, please consult the website: www.ispa.org.uk
The views expressed in this release are those of the Internet Services Providers’ Association (ISPA) and do not necessarily reflect the corporate policies of the individual companies that are members of the Association or other organisations that may be mentioned in the release. For further editorial information please contact the ISPA Press Office (020 7340 8741).