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Ofcom to review sections of Digital Economy Act

Review will assess whether website-blocking powers could work

This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Communications watchdog Ofcom will review sections of the Digital Economy Act to see if they are workable following public comments submitted in the Your Freedom exercise.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has asked Ofcom to assess whether the Act’s reserve powers to enable courts to block websites dedicated to copyright infringement could work.

The site-blocking measures need secondary legislation before they can be introduced and the review will inform the Government’s decision on the next steps to take.

Mr Hunt said: “The Digital Economy Act seeks to protect our creative economy from online copyright infringement, which industry estimates costs them £400 million a year. I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content.  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.”

The review will look at areas such as whether it is possible for internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to the sites, how robust such a block could be and whether specific parts of a website can be blocked effectively.

The Your Freedom website was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg last July asking the public to suggest unnecessary laws and regulations that they believed should be removed. The website closed in September and since then, ministers and officials have been reviewing the comments and suggestions.

Mr Clegg said: “When we launched Your Freedom, I promised that the ideas submitted would be given proper consideration. Although reform of the Digital Economy Act did not form part of the Coalition Agreement, we have listened to the views expressed. The Government will look at whether we have the right tools for the job in addressing the problem of online copyright infringement.”

Further information

Published 8 February 2011