British can't block illegal filesharing sites

It looks like the Liberal Democrat business secretary Vince Cable is about to tell the world and its dog that government plans to block illegal filesharing websites under the controversial Digital Economy Act are unworkable.

The statement will be a bit of a shock to Big Content which just opened the champers after a court ruled BT has to block access to Newzbin2.

Cable is going to be outlining the government’s response to the Hargreaves report on the future of UK copyright law. Rather than following the censorship line, Cable is expected to announce legislation to sweep away restrictive rules on file copying and parody works.

Cable said that there is no need to introduce legislation to block access to copyright-infringing websites. He thinks that the existing Copyrights, Design and Patents Act is powerful enough.

He apparently thinks that the Digital Economy Act, rushed through by the Labour party at the end of its time in office, is largely toothless.

It’s already a year late, with the first cease-and-desist warning letters to be sent to filesharers on hold until the second half of 2012. Disconnections will not happen until 2013 at the earliest.

However, Cable is investigating setting up a digital copyright exchange, one of the key proposals of the Hargreaves report published in May. It would be a one-stop shop to make lawful use of copyrighted material easier.

Big Content screamed blue murder at the idea and pointed out that it may contravene various European regulations by forcing all rights holders to take part.

The government wants to sweep away many of the UK’s archaic intellectual property restrictions that make it technically illegal to transfer content from CDs or DVDs to other formats. It would also be legal to burn copies of music and video files for family members to use, and give legal protection to spoof works.

Private copying is carried out by millions of people who are “astonished” that it is technically illegal, Cable said.

Now it’s time to bring copyright into line with people’s expectations and update it for the modern digital world.

He has his work cut out for him. According to the Guardian , Big Content is furious that the government has delayed implementing the Digital Economy Act. It was looking forward to eating the brains of filesharers and drinking the blood of their children, which we understand was in the fine print.

There is some pressure on the government to move quickly.