British government scraps plans to block P2P sites, legalizes ripping

Chalk up a rare win for torrent lovers. The British government has dropped its attempt to force Internet service providers to block file sharing sites, a major provision of the proposed Digital Economy Act, following a review by UK telecom regulator Ofcom. At the same time, UK officials have decided to update the country’s copyright laws to finally legalize “format shifting,” or more commonly known as ripping. 

The announcement comes hot on the heels of the Motion Picture Association’s recent victory in getting a court injunction to force the giant British ISP BT to block access to Newzbin2, a site that aggregates Usenet links to download movies for free. BT wasn’t particularly happy with the ruling, but did say that it brought needed clarity to the issue. BT also added that if groups representing copyright holders wanted sites blocked, the correct legal route in its view was the one taken by the MPA.

The proposed UK legislation was far different from the seeking of case-by-case injunctions advocated by BT. The sweeping new rules would have given copyright holders far more power in forcing the blocking of infringing sites, but in light of the MPA case and a whole lot of complaining by ISPs, legislators felt that there were other legal avenues worth pursuing. It seems that everybody involved (aside from torrent sites and the like) is coming to an agreement that the MPA’s tactic, bringing an injunction suit to court asking for a specific ISP to block a specific site, is the best current course of action in the fight against piracy. This could be a major blow to pirate sites because previous attempts to block them have been known to stall as the various parties involved squabble over how to legally pull it off.

As far as ripping is concerned, the UK has removed a law that previously considered copying CDs or DVDs onto one’s personal computer illegal. The fact that such laws still existed shows just how out of date a lot of the legal framework of the piracy argument is, but it does seem to be a positive sign that lawmakers, or the British ones at least, are trying to rework the legal code to reflect current methods of media distribution.

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