A UK developer has created a new and free service that not only silently unblocks any website without falling foul of the law, but one that will eventually become available to all under a GPL 3.0 license.
For the first time ISPs are being asked to block websites on the basis of alleged trade mark (rather than copyright) infringement. Whilst ORG takes no view on the merits of the trade mark claims in the current case, we believe the outcome of this case
will have implications for future trade mark blocking applications, which could potentially threaten the legitimate interests of third parties.
Legal Director, Elizabeth Knight said:
As the court is being asked to
extend the circumstances in which blocking orders are granted, it's vital that the wider public interest is taken into account. We hope that our intervention will help ensure that future claimants cannot use blocking orders to restrict legitimate
activity or free speech.
David Allen Green, lawyer at Preiskel & Co LLP, is acting for ORG pro bono. He said:
In our adversarial system it is hard for the voices of third parties to be heard by
a judge, even when the court will be developing remedies which can affect the legitimate rights of people who are not parties to a particular case. In this case the High Court has kindly permitted the ORG to intervene so as to make detailed submissions
on how this novel jurisdiction should not be abused.
The case has been brought by luxury brands Cartier International and related companies. They are calling for BSkyB, BT, EE, TalkTalk and VirginMedia to block a number of websites
that they claim have been using the brands' trade marks for counterfeiting activity.
In its submission to the Court, ORG stresses that it is neutral about the details over this particular case. The organisation's concerns are that if the claimants
are successful, the ruling could be used as a basis for applications for blocking orders that are contrary to the public interest - for example, if the judgment was used to try and block websites that use trademarks to legitimately criticise or parody
well known brands. Court blocking orders may also affect commercial third parties who have no involvement in any alleged infringement - for example law abiding businesses whose products appear on websites alongside those of companies involved in
infringing activity. ORG is not opposing the current application, but has submitted to the court a test that should be adopted so that blocking orders are only granted in circumstances where they are proportionate, effective and contain safeguards
ORG is campaigning for more transparency around websites blocked for legal reasons through its Error 451 project . ORG is calling for ISPs to show an error 451 message when material has been blocked by a court order and to provide
more information to the public.
The consultation, carried out on behalf of the IPO by Inngot is based around the following question:
Today, there is a significant difference between the penalties for offline and online copyright infringement. If
convicted, criminals can serve up to ten years for the first -- but only a maximum of two years for the second. Do you think the law should be changed?
In our response , we have outlined why we believe that it is is
misleading to suggest that online and physical copyright infringement are comparable offences and should therefore carry the same penalties. It is relatively easy to distribute large numbers of digital copies of a work online, while doing the same in the
physical world would involve infrastructure clearly beyond the reach of ordinary citizens. We believe that there is a risk that members of the public could be unwittingly in criminal online infringement -- even if they are not making any money.
Changing the law could even lead to harsher sentencing for online infringement than for offline infringement. The difficulty in making evidence based assessments of the actual values involved in online infringement tends to generate
estimates of very high economic harms, easily in the millions. This could make non commercial online infringers end up with much higher sentences than hardened criminals dealing with physical goods.
ORG also believes the
consultation is flawed because it doesn't seek the opinions of ordinary internet users but assumes that respondents, generate income from the copyright of their works. We do not believe this policy should be considered but if it is, we will
mobilise our supporters and the rest of civil society to oppose it.
In a submission to the Australian Government on the issue of online piracy, BBC Worldwide indicates that ISPs should be obliged to monitor their customers' activities. Service providers should become suspicious that customers could be pirating if they
use VPN-style services and consume a lot of bandwidth, the BBC says.
Shows like Top Gear have done extremely well overseas and the trend of exploiting other shows in multiple territories is set to continue. As a result the BBC is now getting involved
in the copyright debates of other countries, notably Australia, where it operates four subscription channels.
Following submissions from Hollywood interests and local ISPs, BBC Worldwide has now presented its own to the Federal Government. Its
text shows that the corporation wants new anti-piracy measures to go further than ever before.
The BBC wants content owners and ISPs to share the responsibility to reduce and eliminate online copyright infringement. Educating consumers on
both the impact of piracy and where content can be obtained legally online would be supported by improved availability of official offerings. At the moment the vast majority of BBC programmes are never made officially available to people abroad, so it is
hardly surprising that Brits abroad find less official ways to use iPlayer.
The BBC spoke of the scale of people trying to watch the new series of Dr Who in Australia:
Despite the BBC dedicating
considerable resources to taking down and blocking access to these Doctor Who materials, there were almost 13,000 download attempts of these materials from Australian IP addresses in the period between their unauthorized access and the expiration of the
usual catch-up windows, the BBC write.
In common with all rightsholder submissions so far, the BBC wants to put pressure on ISPs to deal with their errant subscribers via a graduated response scheme of educational messages backed up
by punitive measures for the most persistent of infringers.
But the BBC goes further than any other rightsholder submission thus far in suggesting that ISPs should not only forward notices, but also spy on their customers' Internet usage habits.
The BBC wrote:
Since the evolution of peer-to-peer software protocols to incorporate decentralized architectures, which has allowed users to download content from numerous host computers, the detection and prosecution
of copyright violations has become a complex task. This situation is further amplified by the adoption of virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers by some users, allowing them to circumvent geo-blocking technologies and further evade detection.
It is reasonable for ISPs to be placed under an obligation to identify user behavior that is 'suspicious' and indicative of a user engaging in conduct that infringes copyright. Such behavior may include the illegitimate use by
Internet users of IP obfuscation tools in combination with high download volumes.
The House of Lords has cleared the last hurdle for parody and private copies to be legal under copyright law in the UK. Several new limitations to update copyright were agreed in June, but private copying, often called format shifting, and parody were
held back, creating fears that they might be dropped.
Reform of outdated copyright laws has been a major campaign focus for the Open Rights Group (ORG) from day one. We asked for these changes when the then Labour government launched a major health
check up of copyright law in 2006, the Gowers review. Pressure from industry lobby groups stalled the reforms proposed at the time.
It has taken nine years, and another comprehensive review of copyright by Professor Ian Hargreaves, to get these
proposals agreed. We engaged in many rounds of detailed consultation, argued for the changes in round tables and meetings, and got people to sign our petitions and create infringing parodies at righttoparody.org.uk.
For most people copyright is an
arcane subject. Our friends and family aren't even aware that by copying their own legally purchased CDs to their iPod or that by making spoofs such as Downfall parodies, they have been breaking the law.
The proposed reforms are quite modest.
Despite protestations from industry about the potential impacts of the new parody exception, the law has very strong constraints. It is framed as a fair dealing exception, meaning that by definition it will only be acceptable if it has no negative impact
on the revenues generated by the original. In addition, the exception does not affect any moral rights the author may claim, for example around derogatory treatment.
We will have to make sure the new parody right can be used and isn't
inappropriately challenged in the courts. But it has to be said that getting parody onto the statute book is a major achievement for the government and those who supported the proposal, including campaign groups, and comedians and YouTube parodists who
joined us in our campaign. It was striking in the debate how many of our arguments were put forward by Baroness Neville-Rolfe for the government:
The new private copying exception is also relatively modest, although again a very significant step
forward for the UK. The exception is limited to personal use of lawfully obtained originals, and does not allow any sharing of the works, including with close family members. It also does not allow for the removal of any anti-copy technical protection
measures, including those found on most DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. Given most media consumption is moving to a pure digital environment constrained by such measures, it remains to be seen how effective the new right will be in practice. How many people will
be ripping CDs in ten years time?
Earlier this year news broke that UK ISPs are set to team up with copyright holders to notify subscribers found sharing pirated material. Today the initiative has been announced officially, receiving praise from all parties involved.
optimism it may take well over a year before the first warnings are sent out.
As we previously revealed, the Voluntary Copyright Alert Programme (VCAP) will only apply to P2P file-sharing and will mainly focus on repeat infringers. The monitoring
will be carried out by a third-party company and unlike other warning systems there won't be any punishments. The main purpose of the warnings is to alert and educate copyright infringers, in the hope they will move over to legal alternatives.
Thus far BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media have agreed to send warnings to customers whose connections are being used for unauthorized file-sharing. Commenting on the collaboration, all four ISPs praised the educational nature of the VCAP program.
However the Prime Minister's IP advisor Mike Weatherly has already said that it's already time to think about VCAP's potential failure. He suggested that the program needs to be followed by something more enforceable, including disconnections,
fines and jail sentences.
Singapore has become the latest in a line of countries to crack down on copyright infringement via web blocking.
The newly-passed legislation will allow copyright holders to obtain High Court orders to force local service providers to block access to
websites that flagrantly infringe copyright. How that will be determined is not yet clear.
In a statement, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah said the new amendments will help reduce piracy and boost legal alternatives:
The prevalence of online piracy in Singapore turns customers away from legitimate content and adversely affects Singapore's creative sector. It can also undermine our reputation as a society that respects the protection of
Unsurprisingly The Pirate Bay is first on the list of sites set to be targeted by copyright holders, with KickassTorrents reportedly a close second. The law could come into force by the end of August.
A draft bill for the modernization of Swiss copyright law will be presented for public consultation in the coming months. While downloading for personal use will remain legal, uploading infringing content via BitTorrent will not. In addition to
infringement warnings for Internet subscribers, the blocking of obviously illegal sites is also on the table.
The Federal Council says its aim is to improve the situation for creators without impairing the position of consumers, so there is an
element of give-and-take in the proposals for file-sharing, with a focus on balance and careful consideration given to data protection issues.
Current download-and-share-with-impunity will be replaced with an acceptance of downloading for
personal use, but with uploading specifically outlawed. This means that while downloading a pirated album from a cyberlocker would be legal, doing so using BitTorrent would be illegal due to inherent uploading.
While commercial level infringers
can already be dealt with under Swiss law, the proposals seek to lower the bar so that those who flout an upload ban on a smaller but persistent scale can be dealt with. It has been recommended that this should be achieved by sending warning notices to
infringers via their ISPs. Only when a user fails to get the message should his or her details be handed over to rightsholders for use in civil proceedings.
Other recommendations are that Internet providers will not only be required to remove
infringing content from their platforms, but also prevent that same content from reappearing, a standard that U.S. rightsholders are currently pressuring Google to adopt.
Additionally, in serious cases authorities should be able to order the
blocking of obviously illegal content or sources . Any new obligations on service providers would be balanced by granting them with exemption from liability.