The Rise of Web Blocking Orders in the UK: Empirical Evidence Perspectives

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Professor Lilian Edwards, Deputy Director of CREATe, University of Strathclyde

Professor Lilian Edwards, CREATe Deputy Director, University of Strathclyde will be providing a seminar at City University of London on Friday, February 3rd.

Abstract: The digital copyright and piracy wars, which began with Napster and continue today into the age of streaming, Spotify and Netflix, have engaged in broadly three strategies to defend existing content industries, which can be described as punish, prevent, and provide alternative business models. Both anecdotal experience in the legal system and empirical research carried out by CREATe and others point to the failure and partial abandonment of the punishment strategy, especially in its legislative “graduate response” form. By contrast, prevention, in its latest forms of site blocking and geoblocking, is rising in popularity, at least in the UK which has recently been described as the world leader in web blocking. While it may be argued that prevention tactics are unnecessary given the rise of legal streaming, have unfortunate side consequences and may even impede a more profitable long term shift to alternative business models, it is hard to prove this using empirical evidence, as seen in recent UK court cases. This paper asks what evidence would be convincing here and if empirical evidence, rather than normative claims, can ever successfully inform the copyright wars.

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