The Closing of the Net  "original and valuable"  Times Higher Education

A leaked memo from the British Phonographic Industries (BPI - or British IFPI) reveals a quite astonishing action-plan to drive a virtual tank over the UK Internet.


Blocking websites  ok if it meets MI5's  concerns

The Henry VIII clause (Was clause 17, now clause 18)  was delilberatly intended  to bring in extra  sanctions on Internet users who use applications other than P2P, contrary to the government's positioning of it.

ISPs will just roll over quietly on 3-strikes,  as will Parliament 


The BPI has already got a date in the diary to

 meet with Ofcom to draw up the detail of the measures that Parliament will leave open - even before the Bill is through Parliament


Sky and Virgin already in talks with BPI and film industry on how to set up  the elements of the 3-strikes plans that Ofcom will write


Conservative amendment  will build in MI5's concerns for courts to consider when dealing with website blocking requests from rights-holders.


 The Prime Minister's office  is working to resolve the final issue in  the BPI's law


According to the BPI, the Digital Economy Bill should go through Parliament with no opposition because MPs in Westminster, the ‘mother of Parliaments'  are either too busy, or don't care.  


The BPI claims  the ‘only outstanding issue' is the so-called Henry VIII clause, which would give the Secretary of State - currently Lord Peter Mandelson - power to re-write copyright law. So what they are really saying is that they believe all of the other measures they have lobbied for are agreed -  specifically 3-strikes measures and sanctions against Internet users which include cutting them off the net, and making wifi hotspots and businesses liable for what their users do. The BPI believes that the Parliament will pass these measures without asking to scrutinise them.

 These points are expressed in an email memo of last Friday (12 March) whcih has leaked into the public domain. The email memo was sent by Richard Mollett,   the BPI's head of corporate communications. It was sent  to BPI and IFPI staff, many of whom are known on the conference circuit. 

The BPI leaked memo says "Beyond this outstanding issue of non-P2P, there is a tangible sense of "settled will" ... it is hard to find anyone, including within the ISP community, who does not believe that the Initial Obligations - and the prospect of Technical Obligations - are coming into law. "


Initial obligations is the warnings against P2P users. This will e introduced via a  code which will be written behind closed doors by Ofcom, after the Bill receives Parliamentary assent.


Technical obligations will force ISPs to use throttling and automated cut offs against users, on the allegation of the rights-holders. Again, Ofcom will act as a superintendent, and it will write its own rules - the Technical Obligations code -  in secret, after the Bill leaves Parliament.


 What the memo reveals is that the BPI is already in talks with Ofcom and the ISPs about the detail of these obligations. This is important, because it means that they are already plotting how to implement sanctions and blocking measures. It's notable they claim to be talking to Virgin, which recently made public that it is trialling deep packet inspection. 

All that the Parliament will be looking at in the Bill is an outline. Parliament will not get to decide what will be happen. In Westminster jargon, the detail is not on the face of the Bill.  It means that we in the UK get a worse deal than the French, who at least could see, line by line, what was being proposed.


It is important, because the BPI is pushing for far stronger measures than even in France. They are  measures which will infringe our civil liberties, in ways that may be unpredictable in advance. We do not know what kind of impact deep packet inspection will have. All we do know, is that it is used by the Chinese government, and is on order from the Iranian government.


A  Parliamentary committee has already said that it is not happy with the civil liberties aspects of the Digital Economy Bill.


The BPI  memo reveals that a separate ‘Statutory Instrument' is being written to allocate the costs of the 3-strikes measures, and the BPI is hoping to get hold of it before Easter.


The Bill goes to House of Commons next week, so that will be a critical time.


The BPI memo does reveal that the Bill could be ‘lost' ( I think that means dropped) if sufficient MPs protest that they will not have time to scrutinise it.

But the BPI thinks this will not happen,  and the Bill will pass in the shadow of  the Finance Bill.


The BPI is meeting with the Open Rights Group who are opposing the Bill. This is a clever move on their part, (the BPI's part). It makes them look conciliatory, when this memo demonstrates that they are anything but.


The BBC is to run a Panorama programme on this topic. From the BPI's outline, it would appear to be  biased in favour of the rights-holders  - and we should question this attitude on the part of a public service broadcaster.


The leaked BPI memo on the Digital Economy Bill , via Boing Boing. 

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2010) Scandal of new music industry leaked memo - Parliament will roll over on  3-strikes 14 March  2010








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