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Government to pull sections of existing piracy law, holders now responsible for web blocking

Britain's government wants to ditch sections of existing anti-piracy legislation that allow it to block copyright-infringing websites, following recent legal developments demonstrating that copyright holders are able to obtain the court orders necessary to instigate an embargo themselves, CNET reported.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that Westminster is looking to pull sections 17 and 18 from the Digital Economy Act (DEA).

The proposals would place the burden of blocking websites that contain infringing content solely on ISPs. Similar legislation has been floated in the US, with the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) being debated in both the House of Represenatives and the Senate before being put on hold at the beginning of the year.

"We must ensure our creative industries can protect their investment," Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey said this week in a statement. "They have the right to charge people to access their content if they wish, whether it [be] in the physical world or on the Internet."

In May 2011, telecommunications regulator Ofcom submitted a report that questioned whether the sections in question would be effective.

While Ofcom admitted that none of the handful of techniques available for blocking access to Internet sites is 100 per cent effective, they said that sections 17 and 18 of the act in particular would not "be effective for generating lists of sites to be blocked."

"Specifically, we do not think that using the Digital Economy Act would sufficiently speed up the process of securing a blocking injunction," the report said. "We are sceptical as to whether copyright owners would make sufficient use of any new process."

Rights holders have successfully used existing laws to block access to websites like Newzbin2 and Pirate Bay, with a DCMS spokesman indicating to CNET that it hopes to remove the sections "at the earliest opportunity."

As part of the DEA, major Internet providers in the UK will also begin sending piracy warnings in 2014 to customers in an effort to warn users about alleged illegal file sharing. Repeat violators will be placed on a Copyright Infringement List (CIL).

The US is building a similar system, dubbed the "Copyright Alert System," which is expected to launch sometime later this year, and will provide users with notices if their ISP suspects there is illegal downloading occuring.

This week's revelation regarding Britain's digital legislation follows on from the Home Office's recent proposal of a new bill that would seek to directly monitor and store the Internet activity of individual's residing in the UK.