UK IPO Publishes Digital Copyright Hub Report August 13, 2012Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Rights Licensing, Standards, UK.
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Last month, the UK Intellectual Property Office published a report called Copyright Works: streamlining copyright licensing for the digital age. This is the second report in Richard Hooper CBE and Dr. Ros Lynch’s engagement with the UK IPO. Hooper’s background includes positions at the top of the UK’s media and telecommunications industries; Lynch is a senior civil servant in the UK’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The second Hooper Report follows on the heels of several important developments in the UK regarding copyright in the digital age, most recently including the Digital Economy Act and the Hargreaves Review. Having found (in the first Hooper Report) that the legal content marketplace is being held back by several obstacles, such as licensing difficulties, lack of standards, and deficiencies in both content and metadata, the second Hooper Report makes recommendations on how to solve the problems.
Unfortunately the recommendations in the second Hooper Report don’t go far enough. Hooper and Lynch did a lot of research, talked to lots of people, and synthesized lots of information. Most of their input appears to have come from established industry sources, including the major licensing entities in the UK, such as PRS and PPL (UK analogs to ASCAP and RIAA in the US); major media companies; trade associations; and standards initiatives engendered by the EU Digital Agenda such as the Global Repertoire Database (GRD) and Linked Content Coalition (LCC). They also researched important initiatives outside of the UK, such as the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service in the US.
Whereas the first Hooper Report established that major problems exist, this new report is best appreciated as a summary of the various initiatives being planned to solve pieces of them — such as the GRD and LCC. Hooper and Lynch offer cogent explanations of problems to be solved: difficulty of licensing content into legitimate services, lack of complete and consistent information about content and rights, lack of standards for rights information and communication among relevant entities, resistance of collective licensing schemes to new business models, and the relative lack of content available for legal use through various channels.
The authors appear to understand that the various efforts being proposed are not going to solve all the problems by themselves. On the other hand, they also understand problems of “not invented here,” and they take the pragmatic view that the best way forward is to work with existing standards and integrate them together rather than try to come up with some kind of overall solution that may not be practicable.
So far, so good; but that’s essentially where it all stops. After explaining the problems and summarizing existing initiatives, the report tantalizingly lays out a vision for a Copyright Hub that will bring everything together. It recommends government seed funding as a way of both kick-starting the Copyright Hub and ensuring that people work together to build it.
Unfortunately, the vision for the Copyright Hub turns out to be an inch deep. It also lacks explanations of how, or if, all these initiatives — ranging from PRS and PPL’s efforts to offer “one-stop” music licenses all the way up through the technically sophisticated GRD — could fit together or even how they map to the elements in the proposed Copyright Hub. The LCC project is looking at technical aspects of the integration issue, but it is conceived as an enabler of standards, not as a marketplace solution. It’s possible that such a solution is envisioned as a next step in the process. But the report betrays evidence of a lack of technical understanding that would have benefited both the analysis and the envisioning of solutions.
For example: The report has a section on digital images, which discusses the problem that many images are stripped of their rights metadata as part of normal publishing processes. It discusses the possibility of using Internet-standard Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) to identify images and the work that entities such as Getty Images and the PLUS coalition are doing to create image registries and automate rights licensing. But when put in this context, the solution to the metadata stripping problem is obvious: watermarking, the standard way of ensuring that data travels with content. The problem can be solved with a standard watermarking scheme whose payload includes a serial identifier that can be used to reference a URI in a registry. This is what the RIAA proposed for music in the U.S. in 2009, albeit to precious little fanfare; but Hooper and his people didn’t see it. (They use the word “embed” without appearing to understand its meaning.) There are other examples like this.
The report mentions “long tail” licensing — not as in long tail content, but as in long tail uses of content rights. The work that needs to be done should, the report rightly says, address the large and growing number of low-value licensing transactions rather than, say, Universal Music Group licensing to Spotify or Deezer (the kind of deal that will always get done the old-fashioned way). Unfortunately, the authors don’t seem to have talked to many people who try to get such licensing. They should, for example, have sought out startup companies that have to navigate the impenetrable maze of direct licensing deals with rights holders, face the rigidity of collecting societies that won’t accommodate their innovative business models, and make separate deals in 27 member states to get a pan-European service launched.
Overall, the second Hooper Report reads like a particularly well-informed version of the typical industry response to a government body’s investigation into industry practices: look at all the steps we’re already taking to solve this problem; leave us alone.
As a result, the new Hooper Report is a solid foundation on which to build solutions, but it doesn’t provide enough forward direction. It’s all very well to talk about respecting the growing body of valuable work that different organizations are doing to solve online content licensing problems, avoiding “not invented here,” promoting open standards, and so on. But the work that must be done will necessarily include tasks that are tedious and contentious, aspects that the Hooper Report glosses over.
Metadata schemes will have to be rationalized against one another; gaps and incompatibilities will have to be identified and eliminated. Rights holders whose metadata is incomplete or poor quality will have to be identified and given sufficient incentive to improve. Well-intentioned standards initiatives with overlapping or conflicting goals will have to change. Digital holdouts will have to be convinced to participate. And the many organizations with vested interests in maintaining the status quo will have to be called out as part of the problem rather than the solution. This may be ugly work, but it will have to get done.
C&T London 2012 Conference Program Takes Shape April 30, 2012Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, UK.
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The program for the Copyright and Technology London 2012 Conference, to be held on June 19, now has most speakers confirmed, and I am quite excited about the lineup.
Graduated response is on many Europeans’ minds nowadays. We will have Eric Walter, Secretary General of Hadopi, speaking on the subject. M. Walter was appointed by French President Sarkozy to run the authority for administering the progressive response law that France enacted three years ago — and which many other countries are studying to gauge its effectiveness.
Our Conference Sponsor, MarkMonitor, is working with me to organize a panel on the collection and use of piracy data. The ground is shifting in the piracy monitoring field, from a focus purely on enforcement towards use of the data for business intelligence purposes. MarkMonitor will explore this trend and what it means for copyright owners.
I have been working with Nic Garnett, former Executive Director of IFPI and now an attorney at Simons Muirhead & Burton, on the legal track of the agenda. We have added a panel covering international perspectives on digital copyright, to be moderated by Nic himself. He’ll have panelists from the US, Australia, and continental Europe sharing developments and comparing notes.
We will also have a good discussion of developments in the area of rights registries, featuring representatives of the Linked Content Coalition and the WIPO International Music Registry.
Our speaker roster is almost full, though we have a couple of openings left. (In particular, we’d love to have someone on the skeptical side of the graduated response issue to balance things out.)
In addition, two sponsorship opportunities remain. Please inquire if you are interested in that.
Copyright and Technology London 2012 Conference April 18, 2012Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, UK.
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I am proud to announce the expansion of the Copyright and Technology Conference to London after two successful years in New York.
We are partnering with Music Ally to present Copyright and Technology London 2012 on June 19, at the King’s Fund, located near Oxford Circus in central London. Online registration is available, with Early Bird discount through May 4.
Please see the conference page for the agenda and program. We are proud to have MarkMonitor as our Conference Sponsor, as well as Civolution and the law firm of Simons Muirhead & Burton as Partner Sponsors. Sponsorships are still available; please inquire to receive a brochure.
The conference program focuses on topics that should be of particular currency and interest to Europeans, including graduated response, rights registries, multi-platform content security, and content identification technologies. I am working with Nic Garnett of Simons Muirhead on the law and policy aspects of the program.
We are currently accepting proposals for moderating and speaking; deadline is April 30. Please send proposals with the following:
- Name, title, and organization
- Session(s) requested
- Brief summary of speaker/moderator’s point of view, perspective, and/or experience regarding the panel topic(s)
- Full contact information
Please note that personal confirmation from the proposed speaker will be required before we will put him or her on the agenda, and moderator proposals will receive preferential treatment.
I am excited about this event and hope that many of you will attend or participate! Watch this space for more details as they emerge.
UK Digital Economy Bill Survives Last Legal Challenge March 11, 2012Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Fingerprinting, Law, UK.
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The UK Court of Appeal last week dismissed a final attempt by two of the country’s largest ISP’s, BT (British Telecom) and Talk Talk, to have the 2010 Digital Economy Act ruled illegal due to incompatibility with European law. There are various features of the Digital Economy Act, but as one result of this decision, the UK will become the next country to implement a graduated response regime similar to the Hadopi system in France.
Of course, the British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the equivalent to the RIAA in the United States, lost no time in hailing the decision and claiming almost total victory over ISPs in the two-year legal battle. But the word “almost” takes on an interesting resonance regarding the one point that the media industry didn’t really win: the apportionment of costs for the progressive response program.
As I keep saying (and thereby quoting the brilliant Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School), the question of who pays is the “gravamen” — the essence or most serious part — of these disputes over copyright policing. The final Court of Appeal process revealed payment terms that otherwise got very little attention during the deliberations over the Digital Economy Act. It turns out that copyright owners have to pay 75% of the costs of running the network monitoring functionality, the judicial process, and appeals costs. ISPs have to pay 25% of the first two but none of the third cost category; the latter was the point that ISPs won.
The financial terms actually fall far short of the results that copyright owners would like to achieve in similar legal disputes. For example, Viacom would no doubt like YouTube (and other content-sharing sites) to pay all of the costs of enforcing copyright on their sites. Such costs would run into millions per year (whether in pounds or dollars).
By that standard, as far as this particular aspect of the Digital Economy Act is concerned, I would not call this a victory for copyright owners at all; I’d call it a 75% capitulation.
Yet I would also say that it’s good news for the industry in general. If copyright owners are responsible for the majority of costs of operating the progressive response system, then they will have an incentive to see that it runs accurately, fairly, and efficiently. If the technical mechanism for detecting infringers is too aggressive, then they will spend too much money on the appeals end (and deal with public outcry which could lead to repeal of the law). If it’s too loose, then they don’t catch infringers and waste their money. The onus for efficiency and accuracy will be on the content recognition and network monitoring vendor that is selected to run the system. If the technology doesn’t work well, the vendor will need to improve it or be (as they say over there) sacked. That’s as it should be.
These graduated response regimes are best viewed as experiments in reducing online copyright infringement, and they should be continued if an appropriate balance among accuracy, cost-efficiency, and fairness to the public can be found.
The missing piece in the Digital Economy Bill is that that copyright owners have no incentive to ensure that the technical mechanism does not disadvantage users by hindering the ISPs’ network performance. My understanding is that this aspect of it needs to be determined by Ofcom, the UK’s telecommunications regulator, and that this has not happened yet (feel free to correct me by comment if I’m wrong). Ofcom needs to ensure that technical mechanisms do not interfere with ISPs’ performance and that any disputes should be resolved by facts and independent measurements. And if it turns out that ISPs need to install more equipment (e.g. faster servers or routers) to restore network efficiency, then copyright owners should contribute to those costs as well.
At a more abstract level, I’d say that copyright owners have been given a bigger prize than the Act itself: the right and responsibility, mandated by law, to ensure that these rights technologies work fairly and efficiently. (Copyright owners already pay network monitoring companies like MarkMonitor and Peer Media, but not as part of an institutionalized, nationwide infrastructure that is connected to legal apparatus.) This will be healthy for the rights technology industry.
In this way, the Digital Economy Act is an improvement over anticircumvention legislation, such as in the U.S. Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which gives vendors of DRM technology legal backstops so that they have limited accountability for how well their technologies actually work. True accountability only comes if the entity paying for the technology has no choice but to demand that it works well.
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If you believed all the musicians, eager to lay their claim to fame and some royalties, some Beatles tracks had no fewer than six drummers! Nearly 90% of UK musicians earn less than £16,000 a year from their profession.
Allocating hard-earned royalty pennies to each performer properly can be a nightmare, if it is even possible in some cases. This is one of the aspects of monetization that is hidden from public view. Yet resolving such issues through the legal system is an expensive business which inhibits sensible resolution of financial matters.
That’s why PPL (Phonographic Performance Ltd), the music licensing company that, on behalf of 42,000 performers and 5,000 record companies, licenses the use of recorded music in the UK, has launched an innovative service. It’s probably a global first of its type. PPL’s Dispute Resolutions Procedure is designed to avoid going to the courts to settle a dispute.
It has three components:
…which are not mutually exclusive.
Significant thought has gone into creating a fair and transparent process led by Ian Mill QC and Fran Nevrkla, the CEO of PPL. Other QC’s (senior-level UK attorneys) will support the process.
Whilst this appears to bypass the law, in reality it doesn’t. Arbitration procedure is part of English law and enforceable under it. Mediation is part of the civil procedure rules.
All this is to be welcomed, as it allows the commerce of rights to proceed much more fluidly without the threat of expensive lawyers looming in background. Apparently other international rights organizations are taking a keen interest in these developments.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.
New Initiatives by the European Commission and UK June 1, 2010Posted by Bill Jones in Economics, Europe, Law, UK.
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The Copyright and Enforcement Directorate of the UK’s Intellectual Property Office has reported on two new EU developments in a broadcast email. Since I can’t find the URL for the Directorate [I can't either - ed], I’m left to summarize:
The European Commission has published two recent papers which will impact on our industry:
A New Strategy for the Single Market: This report addresses the challenges to the single market. The report comments on the ill-adapted IP legislation as a barrier to economic progress. It also recognizes that low-cost and legally secure protection of IPRs is of great importance.
The paper proposes, inter alia:
- An EU-wide copyright law, including an EU framework for copyright clearance and management;
- Harmonized copyright levies on blank media and equipment (to simplify the business environment); and
- Adoption of the EU-wide patent and a single patent jurisdiction as a matter of urgency.
A Digital Agenda for Europe: This first initiative is under the Commission’s flagship “Europe 2020” economic program and its main Telecoms and Copyright strategy document.
The text is very wide ranging. The Paper considers transactions in the digital environment to be too complex, with inconsistent implementation of the rules across member states.
It concludes that the EU needs to enhance the protection against online violations of intellectual property rights.
Intellectual Property-related key points in the Digital Agenda include:
- A commitment on reforming governance of collecting societies, and a new initiative to look into cross-border licensing.
- A commitment to orphan works legislation, and looking into out-of-print works
- A commitment to evaluate (not revise) the EU E-commerce Directive this year; and
- A commitment to strengthening Europeana, the European digital library.
Meanwhile, UK’s telecommunications regulator Ofcom has published its consultation on its draft code of practice to reduce online copyright infringement as part of its new duties under the Digital Economy Act 2010: Online Infringement of Copyright and the Digital Economy Act 2010.
As austerity bites, many European countries have to reduce government expenditure as a proportion of GDP – some have started already. Figures in the range of 5% to 10% of GDP are bandied around. These will bite very deeply into initiatives, delivery and operations. Individual departments and agencies could well be subjected to reductions of 25%.
One also can’t see the EU escaping this development since it is funded to the extent of approx 1.24% of the Union’s gross national income (GNI), by individual countries (0.73% of their GNI), duties charged on imports from non-EU states, and a VAT component.
So while all the above initiatives are reality, one wonders what effect these austerity measures will have on them over time.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.
New UK Research Report on Digital Copyright May 27, 2010Posted by Bill Jones in UK.
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The UK’s Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property Policy has just published a new report commissioned by it on “The Economics of Copyright and Digitisation: A Report on the Literature and the Need for Further Research”. It is over 100 pages long so I haven’t yet read it in detail.
Nonetheless, a glance through its content indicates a well researched and presented treatise which, in the nature of a research report, calls for further work. It challenges some mantras, identifies that some value chain positions do not appear to be supported by evidence, and poses a number of new questions.
Given the public expenditure budgetary cuts working their way through so many European countries, and which may also gain traction in the European Union if only to bow to the public mood across Europe, it’s likely that further work in this area will be curtailed. Even so, a new line of research has been triggered to be revisited.
So I commend it to you as an excellent reference document.
Some of you may wish to agree or disagree with its contents on this blog.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.
UK Digital Economy Bill Becomes Law April 21, 2010Posted by Bill Jones in Law, UK.
Contrary to our expectations, the UK’s Digital Economy Bill made it on to the British statute book! It received Royal Assent on April 8 – the Bill is now an Act of Parliament (a/k/a law). I and many others were wrong in our belief that there wasn’t enough time to get it through parliament prior to the imminent election.
It emerged after a bizarre (but apparently legal) process, including the so-called “wash up”, where opposition parties allow the government to get its outstanding legislation on to the statute books prior to an election, having been through a rapid barter and trade of the contentious elements.
A significant outcome of this was the dropping of the “graduated response” (a/k/a “three strikes”) provision, in which repeat online copyright infringers would have their ISP accounts suspended or terminated.
It’s a wide ranging Act. Most of the provisions of this Act in relation to copyright appear to constitute amendments of other statutes and are to be found in Clause 17.
The Act implements some but not all of the recommendations in the Digital Britain report. In that respect, it’s the legal manifestation of a political report, drafted with insufficient scrutiny in the parliamentary process. It is 60 pages long, although only a minor part relates to intellectual property.
The relevant parts cover continuingly controversial provisions giving a Minister the power to order internet service providers (ISP’s) to take technical measures against subscribers – the most obvious being suspension of online access – in order to tackle online copyright infringement. The Minister is also empowered to make regulations giving the courts the power to order blocking injunctions on specific websites. Maximum fines for copyright infringements are standardised and increased. The public lending right is extended to cover publications in non-traditional formats such as e-books.
The Act gives ISPs the responsibility of notifying subscribers of any copyright infringement, initially identified by rights holders. ISPs will be obliged to react to copyright infringement reports from rights holders – containing evidence that a user has engaged in some form of piracy – by notifying the relevant users of these reports. ISPs will effectively have to pass on warnings to their customers in writing encouraging them to lawfully access material rather than break the law. The courts will clearly have a significant amount of interpretation to do. Some provisions are aimed at gathering data, which facilitates the UK government’s intention to ensure that any legal changes have bases in evidence. This comes at a time when many are questioning the validity of the evidence (e.g., loss of revenue) used to persuade Members of Parliament that action was initially required.
The ISPs are required to maintain anonymous user-specific records of their notifications, so as to assist rights holders in identifying the serial offenders, against which the rights holders can take further action (once they have obtained a court order for a particular user’s identity). The instigator of the action is the rights holder and not the ISP. In that respect the ISP is an agent.
The anti-piracy measures that impose these obligations on ISPs are unworkable and unenforceable until private industry or Ofcom, the UK communications regulator and main regulatory agent for this bill, draws up a new code that will dictate how they work in practice. This process will not commence until after the General Election – and may not finish until the end of this year 2010, or early next year in 2011.
The Minister also has the power to intervene in the operation of internet domain registries.
This may result in the development of later sanctions against internet users. This could involve an order for ISPs to impose technical measures on rogue users, such as throttling their bandwidth or, in the extreme, suspending a user’s service. While these sanctions are some of the more controversial aspects of this Act, the earliest they would be seen is over 12 months from when the Code comes into force – which would be around the first quarter of 2012 at the earliest, and even that is not certain. Ofcom must also initially assess whether such measures are required, although the final decision rests with the Minister, which is subject to approval by both Houses.
Users will have the usual rights of appeal to a tribunal against both copyright infringement reports and any technical measures imposed upon them. Should an ISP fail to comply with a technical measure, it could be fined up to £250,000. ISPs are not happy about this, to say the least.
Blocking injunctions are a further possibility. These uncertain and significantly opposed provisions in the Act give the Minister powers to request a court to issue a blocking injunction, which would require ISPs to block access to websites used in connection with the infringement of copyright. These provisions appear widely drafted and it remains unclear what effect will be given to them – it appears to be a catch-all backstop should other provisions prove inadequate or unworkable.
Although any provision will require approval of Parliament and a 60 day review period before it comes into force, a full scrutiny of such provision (as is usually the case with primary legislation) will not be required. This appears a move away from traditional law making and again towards the use of executive powers.
Further measures in the Act include enforcement tariffs such as fines. The penalty for online and physical copyright infringements under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act has been increased from £5,000 to a maximum of £50,000.
The Act has ducked the issue of orphan works.
Rights holders will naturally be happier now that there is a new scheme on the statute book for combating online piracy. This is a significant achievement for them.
Whether it has the effect of changing behaviour and being effective in addressing copyright theft remains to be seen. That copyright theft is a crime has been reinforced and that is an important statement.
What the Act is unlikely to do is to have a huge effect on dedicated internet pirates, who will be innovative in bypassing the technical measures and hiding their identities. The UK Courts are prepared to find internet service providers liable for the infringements of copyright committed by their users. Should blocking injunctions emerge, they may go a little further to solving that problem.
Even then this new law would have to be understood, respected and obeyed by every citizen and employee in the land – that’s a tall order!
The UK Digital Economy Act is an inelegant and incomplete piece of work, whatever your views are on the substance and provisions; it may be a case of acting in political haste to repent at leisure amid the bureaucracy. It’s been a controversial journey on a route to who knows where.
I anticipate a significant stream of clarifications and interpretations as enforcement takes hold. Moreover, should the opposition party win the imminent election, then Ofcom is due for a major shakeup and significant downsizing, which will limit its ability to give effect to the provisions of the Act. Nevertheless, the opposition party supports the need to reduce piracy; it’s a question of how.
The government has clearly listened to the rights holders and decided to accept the relevant recommendations contained in the various reports that have been published (Gowers, Digital Britain). The rights holders are happy; the ISPs and various other stakeholders are disappointed.
The new component dealing with British intellectual property legislation has comparatively few friends other than rights holders, judging by public comment. Most people remain understandably ignorant and confused. Significant education will be required.
It has achieved the unstable and uncomfortable position of having one part of the IPR value chain pitched against another on issues of legality and enforcement, with citizens’/human rights possibly caught in the middle. Concerns remain over its impact on consumers and ability to cut piracy.
It’s a step into the unknown.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.
Announcing C&T 2010 Conference Sponsors April 7, 2010Posted by Bill Rosenblatt in Events, Law, UK.
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Gotham Media Ventures and I are proud to announce our first set of sponsors for the Copyright and Technology 2010 conference, which will be held at the Hotel Roger Smith in NYC on June 17.
Our Conference Sponsor is Adobe, which is preparing for the release of its Flash Access 2.0 technology next month. Adobe will be sponsoring a panel, Best Practices for Monetizing Premium Video Content, which will be held in the morning plenary session after our keynote by Michael Fricklas, General Counsel of Viacom.
The first Platinum Sponsor of the conference is Civolution, the vendor of content identification solutions including watermarking and fingerprinting. Our first Gold Sponsor is iPharro, a video fingerprinting technology supplier.
Though the Conference Sponsorship is a unique opportunity, we have room for more Platinum and Gold sponsorships. Please inquire if you are interested.
We should also mention that our earlybird registration discount ends next week on April 15. Take advantage of $100 off by registering today!
Finally, it’s been a busy week on many fronts. In the UK, the Digital Economy Bill is being rushed through Parliament now that the Government has called for elections on May 6th. Of particular interest is Clause 18, which calls for ISPs to block access to websites that host unauthorized content.
The bill will be subject to post-passage scrutiny under parliamentary procedures that those of us here in the States may appreciate after hearing about “reconciliation” and “fix-up legislation” over healthcare reform over the past months. In any case, my colleague Bill Jones will report more fully on the UK Digital Economy Bill here after the smoke clears both in London and at NAB in Las Vegas next week.
UK Digital Economy Bill Progresses with Haste February 9, 2010Posted by Bill Jones in Law, UK.
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The UK government’s Digital Economy Bill is proceeding at some pace through the legislative process – somewhat contrary to my previous comments and general expectations. The main driver is the upcoming obligatory general election, with May 6th openly blurted by ministers as the probable day, although no official date has been set.
The Bill (which unusually started in the upper House of Lords) has moved through its committee stage after two readings, whilst it also has to negotiate the lower House of Commons. It has many other stages to negotiate: two in the upper house and 5 in the lower house, with significant line by line, word by word scrutiny and votes on amendments – all very time-consuming.
Progressive response was keenly debated, with more questions raised than answers provided. Of concern were issues such as: is it the right mechanism to deal with copyright infringement; how do we implement it practically, fairly and firmly; unintended consequences; and possible adverse reactions and responses by citizens and companies.
At this stage no firm decisions have been made, but clearly the government is intent on getting this bill into legislation. It is using a range of devices to accelerate it through the processes, apparently brushing aside some of the concerns regarding progressive response, but the detail will come back to slow the process down.
These developments are taking place against the backdrop of more than 80 other bills competing for legislative time, and new initiatives being announced on the fly and inserted into existing bills – all demanding the institutions’ time. Furthermore, more members of Parliament are announcing that they are standing down at the next election, switching off, and increasingly not turning up to vote, making the passage of the bill less certain.
Whilst I had previously indicated that it was unlikely to come into law, and the balance of probabilities continue to indicate that, one can’t deny the governments’ intent to complete the process in time.
The key areas being legislated on include:
- Extending the role of the UK telecoms regulator OFCOM to include reporting on communications infrastructure and media content
- Imposing obligations on internet service providers to reduce online copyright infringement, and allowing the Secretary of State to amend copyright legislation to the same end
- Allowing the Secretary of State to intervene in Internet domain name registration
- Requiring Channel Four TV to provide public service content on a range of media
- Providing more flexibility over the licensing of Channel 3 and Channel 5 TV services, and allowing OFCOM to appoint providers of regional and local news
- Modifying the broadcasting licensing regime to facilitate switchover to digital radio
- Allowing variation of the public service provision in Channel 3 and 5 TV licences
- Providing OFCOM with additional powers over electromagnetic spectrum access
- Extending the range of video games that are subject to age-related classification
- Providing for the regulation of copyright licensing
- Including non-print formats in the public lending right payment scheme
All in all, this is a weighty and pervasive bill.
Progressive response might fall into the “too difficult” legislative tray whilst the government concentrates on the more substantive items in this wide ranging bill to get it through in time.
Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.