The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

Even if you are not in the UK, the UK LibDems fight to Save the Net matters. A LibDem emergency motion opposing copyright measures to block the Internet which are currently going through the UK Parliament is to be debated at their conference tomorrow.  


***Update: Sunday 14 March. The motion was carried. The question now is where do the LibDems go from here?***


UK Liberal Democrats are fighting to save the Internet against an attack from one of their own. Why is this important even if you are not in the UK? Because what the UK does, will be followed by others. This  is a fight for the life of the open Internet.

It has arisen because of the Digital Economy Bill, currently being driven through the UK Parliament  and which will introduce 3-strikes and other technical measures  to support copyright. Until now, it has been proceeding  largely under the radar. 

  Now the LibDems have succeeded in getting an  emergency motion debated at their Spring conference tomorrow. The motion opposes in particular, a measure - Amendment 120A  -  which would permit UK courts to order the blocking of websites. It also opposes  3-strikes and other measures to monitor or  block the Internet in the name of copyright, and it  condemns the Digital Economy Bill, which

  is seeking to impose a these measures in the UK. 

The motion supports the principle of net neutrality, and the rights of creators to be rewarded in a fair and proportionate way. 

The issue arose  because Lib Dem members discovered that one of their representatives in  the House of Lords, (and  who was put their by their party), is trying to drive through Amendment 120A to the Digital Economy Bill which could result in wide-scale blocking of websites to support copyright enforcement. This amendment  will make anyone running a website or hosting centre or ISP or wifi hotspot  liable for the content that is accessible. The rights-holders can go to court and ask for the ISPs to be told to block websites which they allege are infringing copyright. It will empower courts to order blocks, at the cost of the ISPs. 

Amendment 120A  has been moved jointly by the  Conservatives  and the  LibDems  in the House of  Lords. The LibDem, is Lord Clement-Jones , who is  a partner in a law firm which represents, among others, the entertainment and pharmaceutical industries. Amendment 120A, which will create a new Section 97B of the copyright act - was lobbied for  by the music industry association, the BPI - see the BPI proposal for Section 97B of the CDPA submitted a year ago to the government’s Digital Britain consultation. 

The LibDem conference emergency  motion was put forward by Bridget Fox, a prospective  candidate for the forthcoming UK election.


A UK LibDems Save the Net Facebook page has been started to gather support. It is open to all, even non-Party members, and non-UK residents. The point of it is to let the UK government - and other EU governments - know how much people want to keep the Internet open, and how much they oppose blocking it: 

"This group needs proof that millions of people like you care about the Net so that they can convince the UK Government, or indeed any government, not to block websites or disconnect people from the Net by law. Wherever you are in the world, become a fan and show that the Net matters to you. "

And they explain that they have set up the page because: "The UK's Labour Government thinks people in the UK wants them to control the Net. It's trying to push through Lord Mandelson's Digital Economy Bill before the UK elections in May/June. The UK's Conservative Opposition seems to agree with them. The UK Lib Dems are the only mainstream party which is trying to stop them. "


The UK LibDems conference motion, key points: 

Conference believes that this amendment to the Digital Economy Bill

a) would alter UK copyright law in a way which would permit courts to order the blocking of websites following legal action by rights-holders

b) would be open to widespread anti-competitive and civil liberties abuses, as the experience with similar webblocking provisions in the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act illustrates

c) could lead to the closure of internet hotspots and open wifi operated by small businesses, local councils, universities, libraries and others

d) 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

e) may be illegal under the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and other EU law

Conference condemns

a) web-blocking and disconnecting internet connections

b) 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.

c) the Digital Economy Bill for focusing on illegal filesharing rather than on nurturing creativity and innovative business models.

Conference supports

a) the principle of net neutrality, through which the freedom of connection with any application to any party is guaranteed, except to address security threats or due to unexpected network congestion.

b) 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 all regulatory attempts to monitor, control and limit internet access or internet publication, whether at local, national, European or global level.

Conference calls for:

1. All publicly-funded publications to be freely accessible under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike licence.

2. 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.

3. A level playing field between the traditional, copyright-based business model and alternative business models which may rely on personal copying and legal filesharing.







The Copyright Enforcement Enigma tells the story of the 2009 Telecoms Package and how the copyright industries tried to hijack it.

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