Ed Vaizey and copyright groups in secret meetings to take down websites

Moves are afoot to take down websites that infringe copyright, as secret meetings discuss ways to protect stuff like Premier League football from being shown where it shouldn't be.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
Expertise Films, TV, Movies, Television, Technology
Richard Trenholm
2 min read

Moves are afoot to take down websites that infringe copyright, as communications minister Ed Vaizey meets with Internet service providers and copyright holders behind closed doors. A series of private meetings have discussed ways to protect stuff like Premier League football from being shown where it shouldn't be.

Talk of clandestine meetings evokes images of sharp-suited villains gathered round glossy boardroom tables like supervillains, but sadly it's certain not to be anything like that. The most recent meeting is reported to have discussed blocking websites that focus on copyright abuses such as streaming football matches.

Interested parties including the BPI, the Football Association, the Premier League and the Motion Picture Alliance are behind the plans. We're going to imagine that if the guy from the Publishers' Alliance mentions ebooks, Ed Vaizey presses a button and the hapless publisher disappears into a shark tank, and you can't stop us.

The copyright cabal refused to allow copyright campaign group The Open Rights Group to attend the meeting; the ORG and Liberal Democrat blogger James Firth revealed plans from the most recent meeting.

The meeting came up with plans entitled Addressing Websites That Are Substantially Focused on Infringement, which are reported to include councils that can decide which sites to block. These 'expert bodies' would decide which sites should be looked at for their consistent copyright infringement, before the High Court decided whether or not to take down the sites.

It's still too early to say what constitutes a 'focus on infringement'. Would the expert body be able to block YouTube, for example, because of the large amount of copyrighted material uploaded to the site?

The plans focus on the streaming of big football matches, but can be extended to other media such as films, music or ebooks. Fortunately consumer group Consumer Focus provides the voice of reason, suggesting "the first step to address this problem is to assess whether consumers' evident demand for streaming football games online is met by legal services." That argument extends to other media too: it's the very thing we said when we used the example of Tron to highlight that the lack of online access drives people to piracy.

It's a draft proposal so there's still plenty of scope for change. The plans call for a voluntary scheme, so it's only the first step towards implementing the Digital Economy Act. We'll keep you posted as the news unfolds.

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