Google and Yahoo condemn UK Web bill changes

Executives at Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and the UK’s top four ISPs have slammed changes to the country’s Digital Economy bill.
 
Top management at BT, Virgin Media, Orange UK and Talk Talk joined the Web firms in requesting that the UK’s House of Lords overturn amendment 120A, on the basis it could limit Web access, infringe civil rights, and damage the country’s standing as a global business centre.
 
The request was made in a letter sent to the Financial Times, which garnered a total of 18 signatures including celebrities, MPs, and university professors.
 
One of the main criticisms is that the amendment was pushed through parliament shortly before it broke up last week. That left little time to respond to the change, which the group argues could have “unintended consequences which far outweigh any benefits it could bring,” in terms of protecting copyrighted material.
 
The amendment would allow UK courts to issue injunctions against websites that promote illegal file-sharing, so forcing ISPs to block access to those sites and cut-off individuals who persistently offend.
 
A swathe of legal and technical issues would have to be addressed before the clause was put into action, and even then it could limit the UK’s ability to provide free access to the Internet, the group argues.
 
“Blocking access as envisaged by this clause would both widely disrupt the Internet in the UK and elsewhere and threaten freedom of speech and the open Internet, without reducing copyright infringement as intended.”
 
The claims were immediately rejected by the BPI, a UK music industry trade group.
 
Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, said the UK’s courts would protect human rights and accused the 18 signatories of scaremongering.
 
“Contrary to the claims in the letter, service providers would in every case be able to ensure that the decision as to whether a site should be blocked is made by the High Court,” Taylor states.
 
Britain’s House of Lords objected to the original bill, which would have allowed the Government to change copyright laws without further legislation.

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