US, UK aim at pirates could lead to net censorship

The screws are tightening on copyright pirates and counterfeiters. A good thing too. But, like net neutrality, this is an area where the state needs to step carefully for fear of killing what it should encourage.
The vast majority of people who use the net are law-abiding folk. If a few download copyright material, it may be that they have no other legitimate source for it. Indeed, the evidence is that downloaders also buy more music than those that don’t, so killing a marketing channel for the music and video companies may also limit their sales.
At any rate, Nominet, prompted by the Serious Organised Crime Agency, wants to debate a change to its T&Cs. The change will formalise the process whereby Soca or some other “recognised law enforcement agency” can ask Nominet and its registrars to shut down a website, without a court order.
Nominet is cooperating because to do otherwise would see it taken over by the government. The ensuing bureaucracy would make that a backward step in the day to day management of the .uk and .44 domains, for which Nominet is responsible.
No doubt too, that as we are today, every right thinking person would agree with requests to take down obvious criminal web sites.
But what if the Wikileaks cache of embarrassing diplomatic messages was hosted in the UK, and an offical decided to help spare Uncle Sam’s blushes by insisting that the hosting site take down the web site?
The organisations Nominet thinks might have something useful to say about the matter all represent government, its agencies or businesses. There is not yet a single representative from civil society.
But there is time. Nominet promises to discuss the issue in the new year. Anyone interested in contributing their ideas should contact Nominet directly at policy@nominet.org.uk

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