Progressive Response in the UK?

Many observers of copyright developments in the UK expect Parliament to pass legislation instituting a so-called progressive response program for thwarting illegal uploading of content, in which repeat offenders would have their Internet connections suspended or even eventually revoked.  Such schemes are the law in Taiwan, South Korea, and (in attenuated form) France.

Even the Economist recently predicted that such legislation is forthcoming in the UK.  We advise against holding your breath.

Yesterday’s Queen’s Speech set out the legislative agenda for the next parliamentary session; it contained a piece on copyright in the Digital Economy Bill.  This essentially codified what’s emerged in the reports that have been published so far:

“The plans for tackling illegal file-sharing, detailed earlier this year, will be a two-stage process. Initially the government will aim to educate consumers and, those identified as downloading illegal content, will be sent letters.  If this proves insufficient, technical measures which will include the powers to disconnect persistent pirates, will be introduced in the spring of 2011.”

There will be scant more detail than this, since all the Queen and Government do is to get the headline intent into the process for detail to be worked out later. The Queen would only have read out “my government intends to pass legislation on…”  But the Digital Economy Bill will be much broader than this and contain many other contentious issues.  Copyright will be only be a minor component of the Bill.

The trouble is that the coming parliamentary session is now only 70 days in length for the House of Commons and 30 days for the House of Lords , because an election must be held by June 6th of next year.  The perception is that very little of the substance of this Queen’s Speech will make it through to legislation, because there isn’t enough time left.  The government (executive arm) will have to determine the priority that this bill will have within its apparently overburdened legislative program. Additionally, the House of Lords is likely to delay politically contentious issues to thwart the incumbent Labour party, which according to opinion polls and commentators is destined to be replaced by the Conservatives.”

Thus it’s unlikely that any progressive response legislation will pass in the UK until at least 2011.  By that time we should have enough data from countries with progressive response laws on the books to determine the effectiveness of such a scheme.

Bill Jones is CEO of Global Village Ltd.

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