Government asks Ofcom to review Digital Economy Act

The Government has asked Ofcom to review the Digital Economy Act’s proposed measures to restrict copyright infringement.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt said there were questions over whether proposals, which include allowing courts to block sites that persist in sharing copyrighted music, would work in practice.

The Government has been under pressure from various parties, including the Open Rights Group, to reassess the Digital Economy Act, which was introduced and passed during the previous Labour administration.

“I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content,” says Hunt. “But it’s not clear whether the site-blocking provisions in the Act would work in practice, so I’ve asked Ofcom to address this question. Before we consider introducing site blocking, we need to know whether these measures are possible.”

Ofcom will soon introduce a mass notification system to tackle the most prolific illegal sharing, but needed secondary legislation to enforce site blocking. The review will aim to help the Government make a decision on the Digital Economy Act’s next step.

A judicial review of the Act is already to take place after BT and TalkTalk voiced concerns over measures to tackle illegal file sharing. It is to be reviewed by the High Court to assess whether it conflicts with European Union legislation. BT and TalkTalk made a legal challenge in July, claiming the rights of internet users were being infringed.

Geoff Taylor, CEO of the UK record industry trade body BPI, says: “We continue to believe that measures to prevent access to illegal websites are essential if Britain’s creative and technology sectors are to fulfil their growth potential.

“Many of these websites are located outside the UK and exist solely to profit at the expense of artists and creators, threatening British jobs and investment. We’ll engage closely with Ofcom’s review and make the case for an effective mechanism to deal with illegal non-P2P downloading.”

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