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March 30, 2011 | Peter Bradwell

Minister confirms site blocking discussions

We have received a reply from Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, about new website blocking discussions.

He has confirmed that discussion are ongoing between rights-holders and Internet Service Providers about 'self-regulatory' site-blocking measures.

We believe website blocking is a bad idea, especially on a self-regulatory basis where vital judicial oversight is bypassed.

The good news is that he has promised to invite civil society groups to participate in future discussions on the matter. In our reply we suggested, alongside Open Rights Group, that he consider Global Partners, Liberty, Article 19, and Consumer Focus.

You can help by writing to your MP explaining why website blocking is a bad idea and why it's important civil society groups are represented.

 

24 March 2011
Dear Jim

Thank you for your letter of 28 February about our recent meeting with stakeholders to discuss alternative plans for site-blocking measures in the Digital Economy Act (DEA).

Jeremy and I met with key players from the digital economy on 23 February to discuss developing new ways for people to access content online. Coming out of this meeting was a proposal for a Working Group to be formed to look at industry self-regulatory measures to tackle online copyright infringement through site-blocking.

I recognise that it is very important that consumer interests are considered very carefully, and we will be inviting consumer representative groups to participate in future discussions on the issue.

ED VAIZEY MP Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

Please help by writing to your MP

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Comments (10)

  1. Simon Hopkins:
    Mar 31, 2011 at 02:06 PM

    We continue to be stunned by the absence of common sense on these issues.

    To be Totally Undetectable all determined Pirates have to do is use HTTPS (common place encrypted connections, every browser can do this automatically), the content is then entirely undetectable, so why are we wasting so much time and money on something that can't work?

    Secondly detecting copy right material on open connections is easily done with big computing power, however, few have it, it's expensive and it can't detect legitimate use (eg: it's legal to move legitimate material from one player device to another via a network providing it is not duplicated beyond use licence limits), current detection methods are thus doomed to legal failure.

    Use of duplicate IPs is becoming common place, we've had calls from customers who have complained about duplicate IP warning messages (from browser) when trying to connect to a service (in this case it means two separate people with single PCs at different locations are using the same IP). Google "duplicate IP address" for more.

  2. James:
    Mar 31, 2011 at 03:36 PM

    @Simon It's all very well having HTTPS to mask our data, but that isn't going to help us very much when we can't reach the websites with whom we'd like to exchange said data. If they block, e.g. The Pirate Bay, that means having the infrastructure in place to block e.g. TorrentFinder - meaning we can't get to the sources of "illegal" file sharing in the first place; https won't help us here.

    Worse than that: the infrastructure is then in place to block e.g. wikileaks.com or xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx, its brand-new IP address, or any other site that hurts the government's political interests; just like they've already done in the past. This cuts to the core of the privacy issues surrounding how and why the government censors our online activities.

  3. dizzy:
    Apr 01, 2011 at 09:36 AM

    Err the infrastructure is already in place to block things, it's called "routing"

  4. Simon Hopkins:
    Apr 01, 2011 at 09:54 AM

    @James Our position is simply that any protective system must be able to work and not be subject to ridicule and abuse, which we've seen much of so far (MediaCat - ACS Law).

    It would do a great deal of harm if the Public were scared stiff of accessing legitimate online content.

    HTTPS will work and is the next logical step for those intent upon providing secure private exchange networks, it's a simple matter of enabling it on the networks and servers concerned and providing link software within the servers. It's a different model that needs more computing power, but can achieve the same result.

    In that case, "blocking" will only legitimately be able to occur where proven abuse can be shown which will exclude the dedicated Pirates who would then all use secure networks.

    This means our own Copyright material would fail to be protected from the real threat.

    That's partly why we moved to a new model for some of our output, it's fee to web, funded by adverts, thus the more it's copied the better.

    Duplicate IP's are becoming a more frequent problem on Mobile Internet for example, ie: the same IP being allotted twice, of course this rightly produces error messages, but it also means the ISP does not know that the IP it's trying to issue is already in use by another at that point in time.

    This creates a real headache for detection of abuse, it may become necessary through case law to prove that it wasn't a duplicate IP, or a hijacked IP or DNS server at that moment in time, a big task.

  5. PAUL MYCOCK:
    Apr 01, 2011 at 10:07 AM

    This is yet another errosion of civil libities in this country.
    once apon a time your home was your castle and what rules you made were your business. now that big brother has decided that we the common man are not fit to make our own descisions what does the future hold ? No more World Wide Web for us... now it will be garden walled uk and anti government oppinions will not be allowed ! the thought police are comming and frankly sites like openrightsgroup will be dissallowed in the first cull.

  6. Jim Killock:
    Apr 01, 2011 at 11:33 AM

    Just to clarify, the questions here are about DNS or IP or URL blocking, probably of sites, maybe wider, ie blocking access to material with specific across the Internet.

    DNS and URL blocks can I as I understand it be avoided by changing DNS. IP blocks also cause collateral damage by blocking ranges of sites. So it's certainly circumventable.

  7. Steve:
    Apr 02, 2011 at 09:00 AM

    yes Jim they are but to change DNS settings on a domains IP means the web has to propagate to the change (24-72 hours). And yes, blocking IP's is very very bad. Shared hosting servers can have 10-20+ domains on them that share the same IP so they are essentially blocking sites that have done nothing wrong. Also, technology and software are always one step ahead. I myself Have a cheap openVPN connection (through the netherlands currently) that I use when I use my credit cards online and that can get past any censor. Having said this, if they did start censoring it would most definitely hit home with regards torrent sites and the majority of people who do download copyrighted material illegally. The reason being that they wouldn't pay for a proxy (free proxies are pretty slow) to begin with.
    I really hate saying this I do, but I feel right now after arguing to keep the internet unregulated for so long myself, that we may have to choose a lesser of many evils. The copyright lobby groups will not stop and it seems the government won't stop trying to regulate the UK's internet either. They have given a very decent olive branch by letting consumerist groups have there say (this time at least) in the meetings. Make use of this and make sure that consumerist groups are involved.

    I hate the idea of censorship I do, it makes my stomach crawl, hell I use the internet mainly for my media because of censorship on TV is far to frequent but what if the censorship was overseen by a group that doesn't represent big business but represents consumerism or civil rights. I know it doesn't sound right does it? (a civil rights group involved with censorship/regulation???) but sooner or later the government will get their way. Wouldn't it at least be better if the people overseeing these "censors" (or if not censors "regulation") was someone who wanted to protect the internet from big business who seek to control the net for monetary gain. I would at least have some faith in that. Even if I still do hate the idea.

    I know it's not nice to hear, sorry about that.

  8. Troc Ster:
    Apr 02, 2011 at 10:10 PM

    The list of blocked ips/domains should be public information. If it is for the protection or benefit of society to see copyright upheld, surely society has an entitlement to know what (how and for what reasons) content is blocked.

    I am sure there are some criteria by which government information is deemed to be sensitive or affecting national security by which one would judge it worthy of being a state secret. I would very much doubt that the DEA has a provision for this information to be classified and exempt from FOI requests for example.

  9. Jim Killock:
    Apr 03, 2011 at 02:50 PM

    Yes, we need transparency and balance. These are normally maintained by a legal process: justice is seen to be done. Sites can today be blocked following a court order. This allows the site, ISP, rights holders and public to know what is going on, and defend any relevant rights.

    What we need to know is why a private process is better than a public process.

  10. Simon Hopkins:
    Apr 03, 2011 at 04:00 PM

    @Jim Killock Yes, well said.

    "Private"?

    Perhaps Secret would be appropriate for part of the process, if clear proven evidence beyond doubt is not mandatory (normally required for allegations of criminality)

    It would a good idea to include a mandatory blocking message (web page), with time and date when blocking started and the offence committed and the full contact details of the organisation requesting the block.



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