By Marcus Leach

The government's plans to block pirate websites that stream copyrighted material have come under strong criticism from online consumer groups.

Last week communications minister Ed Vaizey met with internet service providers and copyright holders to discuss the proposed changes, although The Open Rights Group (ORG) were angered that their request to attend the meeting was denied.

ORG was unhappy at the lack of public debate on the issue, as the government looks to combat streaming of copyrighted material by blocking such sites.

Jim Killock, executive director of ORG is strongly against the proposed changes, which, if fully approved, would see a council who would rule on which sites will and wont be blocked.

"It is unacceptable for trade groups and the government to conduct policy in this way. Censorship proposals must be discussed in public," he said.

"Many of us will oppose any censorship that impacts directly and widely on free expression."

As of yet it isn't clear how the council would be made up, but the main concern is that it would be wrong for the right holders to decide which sites can and can't be blocked.

The proposed plans will form part of the Digital Economy Act (DEA), which already allows mandatory blocking of websites.

If the proposals are given the green light one of the major blocks would be on streaming of Premier League football, although another campaign group, Consumer Focus, claimed this would be a 'disproportionate' response.

"We believe that the first step to address this problem is to assess whether consumers' evident demand for streaming football games online is met by legal services," a statement from the group read.

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