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UK Ditches Plans to Block Sites With Pirated Content

UK – from www.pcmag.com – Regulators in the U.K. said Wednesday that they will ditch plans to block Web sites that contain pirated content.

Under the Digital Economy Act, officials were allowed to ask the court to block Web sites dedicated to copyright infringement. A review of that law, however, “concluded the provisions as they stand would not be effective, according to U.K. communications regulator Ofcom (Office of Communications). As a result, “the Government will not bring forward the Act’s site-blocking provisions at this time.”

The move comes several months after Professor Ian Hargreaves provided the government with his recommendations for how to improve the country’s intellectual property laws. Ministers have now accepted those recommendations, which the government said could save the U.K. economy up to £7.9 billion per year.

Going after pirated content online is a problem that has vexed many a government. In the U.S., Sen. Patrick Leahy last year introduced the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA), which would have allowed the U.S. government to seize domains with infringing content and require ISPs to cut off connections with the offending sites. After it failed to pass, Leahy this year introduced the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property (PROTECT IP) Act, which would allow the government to get court orders that would require ISPs, search engines, ad networks, and online payment processors to stop supporting sites with pirated content.

A Senate panel approved the PROTECT IP Act in May, but it has not yet moved to the full Senate.

Web-site blocking was not the only topic covered by the U.K. overhaul. Under U.K. law, it was illegal for someone to copy music from a CD onto a portable device like an iPod. This update closes that loophole and brings copyright law “into line with the real world,” officials said.

“We need a copyright system fit for the digital age,” Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said in a statement.

Like the recently announced Copyright Alerts here in the U.S., officials across the pond will also notify Internet users suspected of unlawfully sharing copyrighted material. The Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) will implement a “mass notification system,” though it will involve letters rather than digital notifications.

“The letters aim to educate people about copyright and point them toward legitimate content,” officials said. “They also seek to inform subscribers their internet connection may have been used by others to unlawfully share copyright material.”

Users can dispute the charges for a £20 fee, which will be refunded if the appeal is successful. The Ofcom report ” identifies a risk of the system being overwhelmed by vexatious appeals from people determined to disrupt the system. Government expects that a £20 fee should deter appeals without deterring genuine appeals.”

Officials also approved plans for: a Digital Copyright Exchange for the buying and selling of copyrighted content; copyright exceptions as they apply to parody; exceptions for copyrighted material releated to research; and licensing and clearance procedures for orphan works.

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