Regulation by stealth: The strange evolution of internet regulation in Britain

On February 20th a High Court judge cheered record labels and film studios by ruling that the Pirate Bay, a popular file-sharing website, and its users are infringing copyrights. This decision comes after a similar one in July against Newzbin2, a site that aggregates links to copyrighted material. But the judge did not just state the obvious. In October he issued an injunction requiring BT, Britain’s biggest internet service provider (ISP), to block access to Newzbin2. It is likely that BT and other large British ISPs will soon be told to block the Pirate Bay, too.All this proves right internet advocates who have always worried that online content regulation in Britain would be introduced by stealth. In his injunction the judge ruled that to block Newzbin2, BT should use a technology it developed for a different purpose: to keep its customers from accessing child pornography. Cleanfeed, which was introduced in 2004, blocks access to web pages that are on a list compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation, a self-regulatory body.

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