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File-sharing blocking u-turn met with dismay by piracy fighters

Simon Quicke

The decision by the government to abandon plans to block web sites sharing illegal software, games, video and music has been met with dismay from those trying to fight piracy.

Yesterday the government unveiled its response to the Hargreaves Review on intellectual property and also updated its progress on implementing the Digital Economy Act, which had recommended blocking file-sharing web sites.

But the government said that it believed blocking sites was unworkable and other ways to fight piracy would be investigated.

Julian Heathcote Hobbins, general counsel at the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) said that the decision to back down on blocking sites would be a retrograde step.

Hobbins described the u-turn as a "damaging limitation on the arsenal available to tackle piracy".

"The pirates just reposition these sites utlising the internet's global structure in a game of cat and mouse," he added.

"FAST has been consistent in stating that the priority needs to be on enforcement of IP laws and enabling both civil and criminal law to deter infringers and criminals by protecting the rights holder. Without this, future investment will not be so forthcoming and the UK's position as a global leader in innovation will be challenged," he concluded.

In the response to Hargreaves unveiled by Vince Cable, the business secretary, the reasoning for making the climb down on site blocking was spelt out.

"Following advice from Ofcom...site blocking will not be brought forward at this time. However, the Government is keen to explore the issues raised by Ofcom's report and will do more work on what other measures can be pursued to tackle online copyright infringement," it stated.

But the government pledged to carry on finding other ways to combat piracy.

"The issue of online infringement of both copyright and (through sale of fake goods) trade marks is a pressing one for many firms. The Government will continue to devote effort to deterring IP infringement online (including through implementation of the Digital Economy Act) and offline, as its partners do," it added.


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