Freedom, Creativity and the Internet (Spring Conference March 2010)

Conference notes with concern amendment 120a to the Digital Economy Bill which facilitates website-blocking for alleged copyright infringement and which was passed on 3 March 2010.

Conference however welcomes the stand of Liberal Democrat MEPs against websiteblocking and the secrecy of the international Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations, condemned by the European Data Protection Supervisor for endangering internet users’ fundamental rights.

Conference believes that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill:

  1. Would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders.
  2. Would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act illustrates.
  3. Could have a chilling effect on the internet, freedom of expression, competition and innovation as Internet Service Providers take down and/or block websites to avoid facing the costs of legal action.
  4. May be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law.

Conference condemns:

  1. Website-blocking and disconnecting internet connections as a response to copyright infringement.
  2. The threat to the freedom, dignity and well-being of individuals and businesses from the monitoring of their internet activity, the potential blocking of their websites and the potential termination of their internet connections, which could lead to the closure of internet hotspots
  3. The Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal file-sharing rather than on nurturing creativity

Conference supports:

  1. The principle of net neutrality, through which all content, sites and platforms are treated equally by user access networks participating in the Internet.
  2. The rights of creators and performers to be rewarded for their work in a way that is fair, proportionate and appropriate to the medium.

Conference therefore opposes excessive regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.

Conference calls on the Federal Policy Committee to commission a new policy working group to draw up a full policy paper on Information Technology and related aspects of intellectual property which should, in particular, consider:

  1. Reform of copyright legislation to allow fair use and to release from copyright protection works which are no longer available legally or whose authors cannot be identified (orphan works).
  2. The ‘common carrier’ concept, under which internet service providers would not be liable for material that they may carry unknowingly on their networks.
  3. The creation of a level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal file-sharing.

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