Ofcom urged to find ways to end copyright infringement on web

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The Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for a review of the controversial Digital Economy Act, to see if the plan to block websites that infringe on copyright is actually workable.

Mr Hunt has called on Ofcom to assess whether the act, which was rushed through at the end of the last Parliament, will indeed be practical in reducing the estimated £400m a year hit from copyright infringement.

"I have no problem with the principle of blocking access to websites used exclusively for facilitating illegal downloading of content," Mr Hunt said. "But it is not clear whether the site-blocking provisions in the Act could work in practice so I have asked Ofcom to address this question."

The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said that while reform of the Digital Economy Act was not part of the Coalition Agreement, following consultation "we have listened to the views expressed. The Government will look at whether we have the right tools for the job in addressing the problem of online copyright infringement".

Ofcom is preparing the Act's "mass notification system" of writing to those infringing copyright by sharing music and films through file-sharing networks, warning them to desist.

It will now look at whether it is possible for the sites to be blocked by internet service providers, how robust such a block would be and how would measures to circumvent such a block be avoided. The review, which will also consider sites unlawfully streaming TV and infringing sites based abroad, is expected to last until close to Easter.

There can be no moves to actually block file-sharing websites without secondary legislation and the Government will take Ofcom's recommendation on how to proceed.