March 4, 2010

Enshrining Chilling Effects In UK Legislation [3:32 pm]

Lords copyright change could block YouTube [pdf] [via Bits Blog]

One of the most contentious parts of the controversial digital economy bill was voted down by the House of Lords last night – only to be replaced by a clause that campaigners say is even more draconian.

The Liberal Democrats forced through a surprise amendment to the bills notorious clause 17 on Wednesday – in a move that dealt a defeat to the government but troubled critics, who suggest it will have the opposite effect that its creators intend.

Instead of sweeping new powers that threatened sweeping alterations to British copyright law, the Lib Dems added a clause that gives extra oversight to the high court.

The new proposal – which was passed in the House of Lords by 165 votes to 140 – gives a high court judge 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.

[...] But instead of making the proposed system more transparent and accountable, critics say it will simply leave it open to abuse.

“This would open the door to a massive imbalance of power in favour of large copyright holding companies,” said Jim Killock, executive director of the Open Rights Group. “Individuals and small businesses would be open to massive copyright attacks that could shut them down, just by the threat of action.”

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