UK Rightsholders Want Web Censorship; Don't Want The Public To Be A Part Of The Conversation
from the of-course-not dept
A whole bunch of you have been pointing to James Firth’s detailed post concerning some leaked information about a “private” meeting of rightsholders, ISPs and the government in the UK to discuss a “voluntary” web censorship system designed to block what copyright holders deem to be infringing.
“Confidential” documents sent to this blog show the Premier League has joined a coalition of rights holders including the Publishers Association, BPI, Motion Picture Association and others lobbying hard for a great copyright firewall of Britain.
The group is attempting to influence public policy with a desperate-sounding and confused in places confidential submission to minister for the internets Ed Vaizey, who discussed the proposal at a meeting of stakeholders (including ISPs) last Wednesday.
As Firth’s source notes, no matter where you stand on issues of copyright, the idea that policy decisions should be made behind closed doors without the public involved seems incredibly questionable, even if it’s quite common. We’ve seen the same thing in the US, where politicians seem to think that the public isn’t a stakeholder, and that the beneficiaries of a law are the only stakeholders. In this case, making matters even worse is that representatives from the Open Rights Group asked to attend the meeting and were denied. The government did allow a single “consumer rights” representative to attend, from a group called Consumer Focus. We’ve seen this before also. When the USTR was working on ACTA, it very briefly showed a couple of consumer rights groups a copy of a draft (which they weren’t allowed to copy, take notes on or do anything with) and then claimed that they were being fair in allowing all stakeholders access. Of course, they ignored that the copyright maximalists were helping in the actual drafting and had full copies of the documents. But… details.
As for the actual proposal under discussion: it would be a scheme under which ISPs would “swiftly” block access to certain sites rightsholders claimed were infringing, as reviewed by an “expert board.” However, the speed with which the censorship would take place suggests little actual review of the websites in question, because it even notes the desire to censor sites that may be streaming live events. Due process? That’s for peons, apparently. And while people will again insist that this sort of thing would only be used for obviously infringing sites, remember, it was just in the past few days that we noted that copyright holders were claiming that obviously non-infringing sites like Archive.org, Vimeo and SoundCloud were pirate sites.
About the only good news to come out of this meeting is that the UK government apparently wasn’t too interested in being a part of this scheme, which is supposed to be “voluntary.”
If another contact of mine inside government is to be believed, Ed Vaizey is said to have commented, “if it’s a voluntary scheme, go and do it.” Heavily implying that the government need not be involved.
What’s really scary here, however, is how much is being done behind closed doors to create policies — whether “voluntary” or via the government — that massively impact everyone and their rights to free speech. No matter what your opinion on copyright enforcement, is it really so crazy to think that these discussions and proposals should be done out in the open to get all views heard?