Leading UK ISP Says It Will Defy Government’s Net Censorship Bill

Says bill partially written by music industry is on a par with communist Chinese censorship

Steve Watson
Friday, April 9th, 2010

Leading UK ISP Says It Will Defy Governments Net Censorship Bill 090410DEB3Related Reading: Death Of The Internet: Unprecedented Censorship Bill Passes in UK

A leading internet service provider in the UK has declared that it will refuse to follow government orders to restrict, slow down or cut off its customers’ internet access under rules set out in Lord Mandelson’s (pictured) Digital Economy Bill.

The provider, TalkTalk, which has over 4 million internet users, has declared the legislation “draconian” and says it will not cooperate with its provisions.

Andrew Heaney, TalkTalk’s director of strategy and regulation has said the company will repel any instructions to disconnect customers unless instructed to by the courts.

“If we are instructed to disconnect an account due to alleged copyright infringement we will refuse to do so and tell the rightsholders we’ll see them in court.” Heaney wrote on the company blog.

Heaney also makes it clear that TalkTalk will not turn over details of its customers’ online activities to the government.

“Unless we are served with a court order we will never surrender a customer’s details to rightsholders. We are the only major ISP to have taken this stance and we will maintain it,” Heaney asserted.

Under the legislation, the government will impose a duty on ISPs to effectively spy on all their customers by keeping records of the websites they have visited and the material they have downloaded. The bill states that ISPs who refuse to cooperate could be fined £250,000.

Heaney described the provisions in the legislation as a pretext to communist China style internet censorship:

“…many draconian proposals remain such as the responsibility on customers to protect their home networks from hacking at a collection cost of hundreds of millions of pounds a year, the presumption that they are guilty unless they can prove themselves innocent, and, as in China, the potential for legitimate search engines and websites to be blocked.” he urged.

Heaney added that TalkTalk will “continue to battle against these oppressive proposals”, pointing out that the Digital Economy Bill measures will require secondary legislation before they can be implemented and made law.

The TalkTalk director also highlighted the fact that the bill was passed under considerable influence from the record and film industries and that only five per cent of MPs even bothered to turn up to debate the bill in Parliament.

“This is made all the more appalling by the ability of big music and film companies to influence government and the absence of any proper debate or scrutiny by MPs – only 5% of MPs turned up for the brief debate yesterday and the other important parliamentary stages will be bypassed in the wash-up process,” Heaney concluded.

The bill was universally lauded by the music industry, after it was rushed through the legislative procedure via the “wash up” process. No wonder, given the fact that a key amendment of the bill was drafted by the BPI, which represents UK major record labels.

Leading UK ISP Says It Will Defy Governments Net Censorship Bill 090410DEBDuring the process, it was revealed that Stephen Timms, the minister for Digital Britain, was under the impression that “IP address” referred to “intellectual property”, rather than internet protocol, highlighting just how outmoded and ignorant of their actions ministers are on this issue.

The Digital Economy Bill became the Digital Economy Act overnight, as it was given Royal Assent and formerly passed into law.

The majority of the Act’s provisions will come into effect in two months, with some effective immediately. As previously indicated, the online infringement of copyright provisions of the Act will require secondary legislation before they can be implemented.

The British law firm Eversheds commented:

“We can expect opposition to intensify as the clampdown on copyright infringement begins in earnest and consumers find themselves accused of breaking the law. Meanwhile some commentators have already pointed out that technology savvy infringers can – and will – take steps to circumvent detection, leaving open the question, who is the government really targeting?”

Mass protests against the Act will continue with online campaign site 38 Degrees, working in conjunction with digital liberties watchdog The Open Rights Group.

Jim Killock, executive director of ORG called the passage of the bill “an utter disgrace”, adding “This is an attack on everyone’s right to communicate, work and gain an education. Politicians have shown themselves to be incompetent and completely out of touch with an entire generation’s values. There are thousands of activists working with ORG planning to show up at hustings, demand answers from candidates, and who are willing to punish those who voted for this at the ballot box.”

TalkTalk has its own campaign against the Digital Economy Act at www.dontdisconnect.us

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