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Ofcom to investigate if ISPs can block websites with illegal content

Culture secretary wants to know is measures are possible

Ofcom has been instructed to investigate whether ISPs can be forced to block websites that host copyright-infringing content, by the Culture Secretary.

The scheme is just one of a number of measures outlined in the Digital Economy Act, which became law last year, in a bid to tackle internet piracy. However, it raised a number of concerns on whether the scheme was possible to implement. Now Jeremy Hunt has asked the watchdog to look at the technology and cost involved in implementing the measure, as well as whether the measures will be easy to bypass.

"I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content," Hunt said.

"But it is not clear whether the site blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question. Before we consider introducing site blocking we need to know whether these measures are possible."

Hunt's move follows the nomination of the Digital Economy Act on the Your Freedom website, a scheme launched by the government designed to give Brits the chance to voice their opinions on which laws they think should be abolished.

"When we launched Your Freedom, I promised that the ideas submitted would be given proper consideration.... we have listened to the views expressed," said deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

"The government will look at whether we have the right tools for the job in addressing the problem of online copyright infringement," he added.

However, Hunt also confirmed that despite Ofcom's conclusions on the measure, it'll still need secondary legislation before it can be implemented.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport also revealed Ofcom is preparing "to implement the Digital Economy Act's mass notification system". This is the first-step in the three strikes rule that will see those accused of illegal downloading issued with letters and emails warning them that they are taking part in unlawful activity.

However, the net piracy measures in the Digital Economy Act are to the subject of a judicial review after UK ISPs TalkTalk and BT the UK ISPs put a request to the High Court last year, stating the Act was "rushed through" and had "insufficient scrutiny". The two firms also said they were concerned that measures to tackle net piracy - including plans to temporarily suspend people from the web - could be in breach of "basic rights and freedoms".

See also: EU votes in favour of tougher copyright enforcement

http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/news/index.cfm?NewsID=3219808

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