June 21, 2011 | Jim Killock

Secret website blocking proposals presented to Ed Vaizey

The Open Rights Group has learnt that detailed website blocking proposals have been presented by rights holder groups to Ed Vaizey. 

The paper itself has not been published or circulated, despite requests to rights holder groups. The meeting on 15 June, where the paper was presented, was closed to ORG or any other rights group. Consumer Focus did attend, as the official “consumer” watchdog.

However, it is unclear if Consumer Focus or anyone else is able to show us the proposal. In essence, we have a secret website blocking proposal tabled by rights holders, that may become a “self-regulatory”, privatised, censorship platform for the UK.

It is unacceptable for trade groups and government to conduct policy in this way. Censorship proposals must be made and discussed in public. Many of us will oppose any censorship that impacts directly and widely on free expression. Governments would be wise to assess the strength of our arguments, rather than waiting for trade bodies to find their narrow, commercial arguments unravel once their proposals reach the light of day.

We have requested the document from DCMS and Consumer Focus, who were present, and have a meeting scheduled with DCMS officials. 

UPDATE: Consumer Focus have published a response to the secret paper. This says the core of the proposal is that:

the trade associations are proposing that the Applications Court of the High Court issues permanent injunctions on the basis that a ‘Council’ and ‘expert body’ have come to the view that the evidence submitted by copyright owners is valid and the blocking access to the website is appropriate.