03/08/2011

Ofcom publishes report on DEA site blocking compliance

Ofcom the super regulator that looks after radio, broadcasting, media and telecoms has published a report (PDF) about blocking access to sites that publish illegal (copyright infringing) material in-line with section 17 and 18 of the Digital Economy Act DEA).

The report is quite long and complex and goes into detail on the different ways that sites can be blocked i.e. IP address, DNS manipulation, uniform resource locator (URL) manipulation, simple packet inspection (SPI) and deep packet inspection (SPI). There are also potential hybrids of various of the above methods with varying degrees of cost and effectivenes.

There is an existing system for blocking access to illegal material (such as child pornography) with a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), though it can be effective for specific URLs, it can break (such as the incident when and entry on Wikipedia was blocked and most of the traffic from the UK to Wikipedia came from 6 proxies run by the dominant ISPs).

Amusingly where references to getting round several of the schemes are mentioned in the report, they have been redacted.

The report does indicate that existing methods of reporting copyright abuse (under section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988) are not going to be speeded-up by injunctions under section 17 or 18 of the DEA.

The report points out methods of encouraging site owners to co-operate in that if a blocking notice was put on the site, all of their site would be blocked, which might encourage the site to remove the offending content. There is also mention of co-operation of virtual private network (VPN) providers as pretty well all blocking can be undermined by utilising a VPN tunnel.

Ofcom are also keen to ensure the injunctions are not unduely punitive and there is accountability.
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