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South African and Swiss lawmakers consider web-blocking proposals

By | Published on Monday 27 November 2017


Could either South Africa or Switzerland join the web-block party anytime soon? Probably not. Though South Africa maybe. Either way, copyright owners in both those countries have been pushing for web-blocking to be allowed under their respective copyright systems.

Web-blocking, of course, is the anti-piracy tactic where rights owners can get injunctions forcing internet service providers to block their customers from accessing piracy websites.

It’s by no means a perfect anti-piracy tool, because it’s usually pretty easy to circumvent the blockades, but rights owners nevertheless like them and want web-blocking to be available in more countries. ISPs generally oppose web-blocking whenever it is first proposed in any one country, though usually learn to live with it once it has been introduced.

In South Africa, the local entertainment industry asked for web-blocking when invited to input on a new Cybercrimes And Cybersecurity Bill. Anti-piracy group SAFACT, and others, cited the web-blocking systems already underway in some European countries, including the UK, as something South African law-makers should consider adopting. They also requested that ISPs be forced to send warning letters to suspected online infringers, and maybe even monitor for infringement on their networks.

None of that is going to be included in the Cybercrimes And Cybersecurity Bill though, so don’t get too excited. According to South African website BusinessTech, ministers recently said that the entertainment industry’s copyright proposals were not within the remit of the Cybercrimes And Cybersecurity Bill. However, they noted that a bill seeking to amend the country’s copyright law is also going through the motions, and that the anti-piracy proposals would be better put forward for that legislation.

Meanwhile, in Switzerland, it is a copyright review that we’re focusing on. The country has come under increased pressure from government’s elsewhere in the world, most notably the US, to ramp up its copyright regime, which many rights owners complain is ill-equipped to deal with online infringement.

Not least because under Swiss copyright law, most casual downloading and streaming of unlicensed content (though not uploading) is covered by the pesky private copy exception.

Various new anti-piracy measures have been proposed during the current copyright review and an update on which proposals will go forward was published last week.

Still on the agenda is a possible new law forcing internet companies to operate takedown systems that remove infringing content that has been uploaded by their users to their servers. And that would include a takedown-and-stay-down requirement, something the copyright industries have been calling for elsewhere where takedowns systems are already required, but the efficiency of those takedown processes is debatable.

However, according to Torrentfreak, Swiss lawmakers have already knocked back proposals that web-blocking be introduced there. Which will annoy copyright owners because, of course, even rigorous takedown obligations on server hosting companies and suchlike aren’t much use when the servers hosting pirated content are outside the jurisdiction of Swiss law and obligations are therefore hard to enforce.